Leo Harnen remembers "sitting around, kibbutzing with some friends" 16 years ago when he came up with an idea to raise money for a senior center in Ferndale.
"I said, 'Hey, let's have a Ferndale Day. We could have a festival and get the whole community out,' " Mr. Harnen recalled yesterday.
Mr. Harnen, then president of the Greater Ferndale Civic Association, got on the phone to state legislators, civic leaders and businessmen and helped establish the first of what became an annual event, the Ferndale Festival.
The senior center is now a reality on Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, but the festival continues. Proceeds now pay for the center's operations and the planned construction of a new building.
At least 1,000 people came out yesterday to patronize the Big Six wheel, the pony ride, the face-painting booth, the pit beef, hamburger and cotton candy stands and the 32 other concessions that made up the 15th Annual Ferndale Festival.
"It's just good for a small town to bring people together like this. I like the fact that it brings a little community together," said Nathan Hodge, a reserve county police officer who helped construct the booths.
Yesterday's festival was the first held on the grassy, seven-acre tract along Third Avenue donated by George Cromwell, who owns large tracts of land in the Ferndale area, to the sponsoring organization, the Ferndale Linthicum Area Community Council. Past festivals were held along Baltimore & Annapolis Boulevard.
Council President Harnen said the event each year runs from noon until 5 p.m. But volunteers at the Ferndale Community Club booth began their day by meeting at 8 a.m. to make sure they had sufficient supplies -- 300 hamburgers and 200 hot dogs -- to get through the day.
"We might not sell every one of them, but we sure hope to," said Jim McHugh, one of the volunteers.
This year's big drawing cards were events designed for children -- the pony rides, the inflatable "Moon Bounce" trampoline and a face-painting booth where children had to choose between a dozen decorative designs for their cheeks.
"The boys seem to like the Ninja Turtles; the girls go for the unicorn and mermaid," said Deborah Vernon, a face painter from Severn.
As she spoke, she painted a butterfly on the left cheek of 5-year-old Cristina Hasenei.
"This year, Batman seems to be really big, too," said William Hasenei of Glen Burnie, as he stood alongside his daughter, holding her blond hair away from her cheeks for the painting.
Cloudy skies, the new location and a switch from holding the festival in the spring to a fall date conspired to bring down the size of the crowd, which had reached up to 10,000 in years past, Mr. Harnen said yesterday.
But the group still hopes to net up to $4,000 from the day's proceeds, he said.
Mr. Harnen, a 27-year Ferndale resident, said past festivals had attracted larger crowds because of the more visible location -- along the Maryland Light Rail transit lines at B&A; Boulevard.
But it had to be moved this year because of the light rail construction.