Computers, banjos vie for attention at Mayfest


Ken Wilmers is on the cutting edge of computer technology. Bruce Hutton knows banjos.

Despite the world of difference that separates them, the men were brought together to entertain -- as well as instruct -- hundreds of people who came to the 12th Ellicott City May Arts Festival yesterday.

Mr. Wilmers operates Futurekids, an Ellicott City company that provides computer classes for children. He came to the festival with computers, printers and software to show how the latest in technology can be used with artistic flair.

A few feet away, Mr. Hutton took the stage with antique banjos, handmade mouth bows and other old-fashioned instruments.

"It's the new age and the old age," the Takoma Park musician said.

Mr. Hutton scattered history lessons through a string of hillbilly tunes he performed for a crowd in front of the B&O; Railroad Museum.

Plucking on a 100-year-old banjo, he performed "The Cumberland Gap," a song about an area of Kentucky that explorer Daniel Boone traveled through to get to the town that now carries his name.

Meanwhile, Mr. Wilmers impressed children with the wonders of the computer. Youths took turns using the graphic capabilities to color dinosaurs, dogs and cats.

One girl scattered horses and fish across the screen, then spread purple bubbles around them.

Children were not the only ones enchanted by the computer art.

"I'm not a kid," one woman said. "But I'd like to do that."

Hundreds of people strolled along Main Street, soaking in the ambience and the spring sun.

About a dozen craft workers set up stands of jewelry, embroidered clothing and glassware on the cobblestone walkway of Tiber Alley.

A guitarist and banjo player serenaded festivalgoers with bluegrass music as they admired watercolors, oils and sculptures in the Main Street shops. The artwork will be on display through May 24.

John Hossick of Ellicott City brought his two young sons to enjoy the historic character of the town.

"I like to take advantage of the old town flavor," said Mr. Hossick. "I like to see Main Street thrive."

For store owners, the festival provides an opportunity to turn people who don't usually shop in historic Ellicott City into regular customers.

"It's all that exposure," said Nancy Gibson, co-owner of the Forget Me Not Factory. "You get thousands of people. Every year we pick up more [customers]."

To Mike McKain, the best thing about the festival was the food. He had his choice of Italian sausages, hot dogs, hamburgers, snowballs, cotton candy and lemonade.

But Mr. McKain settled on the steak sandwiches -- two of them.

The Baltimore man started his day with a steak sandwich at the top of Main Street and worked his way to the B&O; Railroad Museum, where he treated himself to a second one.

Kim Pierson of Ellicott City is a regular at the festival.

"We come every year," she said. "It's a fun thing to do."

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