Early bird tickets for Baltimore’s BEST party on sale now!

History does stand-up act at festival Ellicott City honors 19th-century past


Cassandra Loeb wandered into Ellicott City yesterday afternoon and soon found a man in a white waistcoat running his hands through her blond hair.

His name was Professor Fletcher. He was a 19th-century phrenologist -- someone who determines people's personalities by the shape of their heads. After finding an enlarged area behind Ms. Loeb's ears, he told the 24-year-old that she was a particularly combative person and suggested she see a doctor.

"Have him shave the back of your head, lacerate it until it bleeds profusely, apply leeches and pack it in ice," he counseled.

"Ouch," said Ms. Loeb, partly disgusted and partly amused.

Ms. Loeb was one of the thousands of people who came to Ellicott City's Millfest during the past three days. Professor Fletcher, played by Dale Jones of the Baltimore City Life Museums, was one of a number of historical characters who educated and entertained them.

This year's Millfest was the city's sixth annual and ran from Friday night through yesterday. The festival of food, crafts and music promoted local businesses and celebrated the 19th-century mill town's historic past.

Barry Gibson, president of the city's business association, spent the day in a union soldier's uniform with gold epaulets. He said the clear weather had helped attract about 15,000 to the festival. Other organizers gave lower estimates.

People milled about the city's streets yesterday, breathing in the fresh aroma of dried flowers and sizzling sausage while listening to guitarists sing folk tunes like "Good Night Irene" and "Philadelphia Lawyer."

Tony McGuffin, a substitute teacher in the Howard County school system, stood in front of the Antique Mall playing Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly tunes. Next door, the Howard County Professional Firefighters gave three baseballs to anyone with a dollar and a yearning to dunk someone in a tank of water. The proceeds went to help those with Muscular Dystrophy.

Clark Bailey, a lanky southpaw, bought 15 baseballs. Whipping in strike after strike, he sent a bikini-clad woman plunging into the water over and over again.

"I dare you," said the woman, continuing to egg him on.

"That's my wife up there," explained Mr. Bailey, before sending Debbie into the tank once more.

A little before 3 p.m., Main Street cleared of cars, and people along the sidewalks grew quiet.

Like the bulls at Pamplona, a horde of more than two dozen waiters and waitresses came careening down the street carrying trays of plastic champagne glasses filled with water.

The Waiter's Millrace, the festival's premier sporting event, was under way.

It was a race of ounces.

In order to place, waiters had to finish at the bottom of the half-mile course holding at least 32 ounces of water. Participants scored points for when they finished and the amount of water they arrived with.

During the race, they stopped to pick up more champagne glasses at strategically located tables. In short, the race was a moving frenzy of flying water and plastic glasses.

Mark Wehland, who works at Olive Branch in Ellicott City, lost much of his water during a turn in Tiber Alley, but scooped up some more from a puddle.

"I ran out of water, what am I supposed to do?" Mr. Wehland said. "You've got to be resourceful," he said.

"I need a cigarette," said an out-of-breath Kyle Marriott, waiting in line to have his glasses of water weighed. "Waiters never run."

Appropriately, this year's winner was a tortoise.

Cathy Gugliotta, 54, lagged behind most of the pack, carefully carrying her water down the street. When she arrived at the finish line by the B&O; Railroad Museum, she had five pounds of it.

Ms. Gugliotta, who works for Il Giardino Ristorante, had competed in the waiter's race three prior years. She said she had learned to slow down and conserve water.

"I used to run real hard and never got anywhere," she said after accepting her $250 cash prize.

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