The Fells Point Fun Festival has grown so much over the years that its first year attendance of 30,000 will be dwarfed by the 200,000-plus people expected for the 26th edition Saturday and Sunday.
But the traditional farewell to summer activities held in Baltimore's funkiest neighborhood is going to be a bit different this year -- for beer-drinkers at least -- as the city, responding to complaints about public drinking, has restricted outdoor beer sales to a parking lot at Thames and Bond streets. So, gone are the days when you could freely wander through the festival, plastic beer cup in hand.
"The city has imposed a beer garden on us," says festival coordinator Bea Haskins, who is none too happy about the new restrictions. She says the cost of constructing the beer garden, coupled with an anticipated drop in sales, will mean less revenue for the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fell's Point Inc.
"There have always been some in the community who sought to eliminate the festival or at least the beer," Ms. Haskins adds. "Fells Point on all weekends has become the drinking mecca, but the festival is the one thing they can get at."
Even if the beer isn't flowing through the streets, there will still be plenty of fun down in Fells Point this weekend. And the festival helps kick off a monthful of festivities, namely the fourth annual Baltimore on the Bay.
The waterfront celebration gets a start today with the second annual Oyster Shuck-off at noon at the Harborplace amphitheatre with shuckers from neighborhood markets. The events continue throughout October with a Blessing of the Boats tomorrow from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. along the west wall of the Inner Harbor; the Baltimore Regatta for the Vision Impaired on Saturday at 10 a.m. at the HarborView Marina & Yacht Club; a Race to Save the Bay on Sunday starting at 2:30 p.m. at HarborView, followed by a seafood festival; a Dollar Day Celebration at the National Aquarium Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; yachts racing in the Cadillac Columbus Cup from Sunday through Oct. 10; and local chefs competing in the Old Bay Crab Soup Stakes Wednesday from noon to 2 p.m. at the Harborplace Amphitheatre.
Also, the Columbus Parade on Oct. 11 at 1 p.m. at the Inner Harbor; the groundbreaking for the Christopher Columbus Center for Marine Research and Exploration, on piers 5 and 6, Oct. 12; a "Kids on the Bay" festival Oct. 17 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Rash Field; "From the Sea," an Inner Harbor parade of lighted boats and large helium balloons, Oct. 17 from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.; and a seafood-and-entertainment-rich "Bounty on the Bay" festival at the Baltimore Museum of Industry Oct. 25 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The guaranteed double take in that list is the boat race involving the vision-impaired. Each of the seven teams (none from Baltimore) is comprised of two sighted and two non-sighted sailors, and the non-sighted sailors actually do the steering.
"Sailing is a good sport for people who can't see. A lot of sailing is done by feeling the wind on your face," explains Susan Taylor, executive director for the Cadillac Columbus Cup. She says non-sighted sailors are also helped by a "talking compass."
What with all those nautical events coming up in October, this weekend's Fells Point Fun Festival promises to be a crowded kickoff to a packed month. And by way of nautical pride, few things can beat the Pride of Baltimore II, returning from a voyage and slated to be docked at the foot of Broadway this weekend.
There will be no shortage of food and crafts booths among the 325 vendors at the Fells Point fest, and the diversity extends to the non-profit booths, which range from the Patterson High Alumni Association to Zero Population Growth. Entertainers range from the 18th century music of Williamsburg's the Virginia Company to the sweet harmonizing of the legendary Orioles.
Among local groups, a mainstay of the children's stage is the Baltimore Vaudeville Theater Company, which in fact has but two members: Becky Saunders and Laura Green. A graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art who juggles her on-stage vaudeville routines with her in-studio painting, Ms. Saunders cheerfully boasts of the duo's ability to juggle everything from a weed whacker to a machete. On the non-juggling front, they also come to the fest with their pet python, Bob, which she says "kids love and their parents are afraid of."
Baltimore on the Bay highlights
* Oyster Shuck-Off at noon at Harborplace amphitheatre. Call (410) 837-4636 or (800) 282-6632.
* Blessing of the Boats from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at west wall of Inner Harbor. Call 332-4191.
* Hands on the Harbor from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Clean up of the waterfront's north shore. Meet at Canton Waterfront Park. Call 732-1438.
* Dollar Day Celebration at the National Aquarium from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call (410) 576-3810.
* Baltimore Regatta for the Vision Impaired at 10 a.m. at the HarborView Marina & Yacht Club. Call (410) 752-1667.
* Pride of Baltimore II arrives at Broadway pier in Fells Point at 11 a.m. for the weekend then moves to Inner Harbor and stays through Oct. 14. Call (410) 625-5460.
* Fells Point Fun Festival from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday from Broadway to Thames Street. Call (410) 675-6756.
* Paddle for People from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Inner Harbor. Must preregister. Call (410) 547-7157.
* Cadillac Columbus Cup yacht races daily through Oct. 10. Racing starts each morning at 11 a.m. "Meet the Skippers" forum at 5:30 p.m. daily. Call (410) 385-2930.
* Race To Save the Bay starts at 2:30 p.m. at HarborView, followed by a seafood festival.
WEDNESDAY * Old Bay Crab Soup Stakes from noon to 2 p.m. at the Harborplace amphitheatre. Call (410) 332-4191.
OCT. 8 * Christopher Columbus Briefcase Relay at 6 p.m. at Rash Field ))
the Inner Harbor. Call (410) 547-5490.
OCT. 11 * Columbus Parade at 1 p.m. at the Inner Harbor. Call (410) or (800) 282-6632.
Oct 12 * Groundbreaking for the Christopher Columbus Center for Marine Research and Exploration on piers 5 and 6. Call (410) 547-8727.
OCT. 14 * Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race III. Schooners arrive in Fells Point during the day.
OCT. 15 Parade of sails leaves at 10 a.m., traveling from Fells Point to the Inner Harbor and Key Bridge. The race officially begins at the Bay Bridge. (410) 547-0090 or (410) 796-5661.
OCT. 17 * Kids on the Bay festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Rash Field. Call (410) 837-4636 or (800) 282-6632.
* "From the Sea," an Inner Harbor parade of lighted boats and large helium balloons from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. Call (410) 837-4636 or (800) 282-6632.
OCT. 25 * Bounty on the Bay festival at the Baltimore Museum of Industry Oct. 25 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (410) 727-4808.