Fees reduced, Latino Festival ready to stay in city and move to Hopkins Plaza Fells Point didn't like the noise BALTIMORE CITY


The Latino Festival, which had threatened to bid Baltimore adios because of increased city fees, now is expected to move ahead because the city reduced the price yesterday.

The city had proposed charging the East Baltimore Latino Organization (EBLO), festival sponsor for the past 13 years, $4,000 for electrical wiring, trash pickup and booth rental -- 10 times more than the group paid last year.

But after EBLO sent a letter to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke this week protesting the fee increase, the city reduced its price to $1,530, allowing the group to assume some responsibility for wiring and sanitation.

"It looks like we'll go with it," said Jose Ruiz, president of EBLO. "It's something the community expects, and we don't want to let the community down."

The Latino Festival has flooded Fells Point with the sounds of salsa for 13 years. But the June 5-6 festival is to be held at Hopkins Plaza this year because of the waterfront neighborhood's concerns about loud music and outdoor drinking night.

Profits from the festival, EBLO's sole annual fund-raiser, finance a Saturday morning reading and math tutorial program for about 45 Hispanic children at a Canton church. EBLO officials say the festival clears about $3,000 annually.

Mari B. Ross, an assistant to the mayor, said the city did everything it could to keep Latino Festival fees to "an absolute minimum." Last year, she said, Mayor Schmoke agreed to split the festival fees with EBLO.

"We really would like them to put on the festival," Ms. Ross said. "But people are asking us to be fiscally responsible, and we're trying to respond to that."

After much debate, the city began charging all festival sponsors increased fees Jan. 1. Mr. Schmoke says the city can't afford to subsidize the events as heavily as in the past.

A key to reducing the Latino Festival's fees was the city's decision to let the Hispanic-owned Mace Electric Co. do most of the wiring for free.

"When we small ethnic groups can help each other, it's a shame the opportunities should escape us," said Richard J. Colon, owner of the company.

Hopkins Plaza will also host a festival in August sponsored by the Federation of Hispanic Organizations of Maryland. That event, known as the Hispanic Festival, is part of the city Office of Promotion's Showcase of Nations, a series of 13 ethnic festivals held from June through September.

Traditionally, the Latino Festival has attracted the largely Puerto Rican community based in Southeast Baltimore while the Hispanic Festival has catered more to Spanish and South American groups from elsewhere in the metropolitan area. Many Hispanics eat tacos and dance the merengue at both events.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad