Singer Patti Austin helped kick off Artscape '95, Baltimore's premier street festival, taking the stage last night before more than 50,000 cheering people sitting on a lawn embankment in front of the Mount Royal Station.
But two of her biggest fans had their backs turned.
Anne Single and Cynthia Manning were cheering just as loudly as everyone else, but they were sitting on a curb with their backs to the stage.
"We didn't get here early enough to get down close," said Ms. Single. "So the next best thing is to sit and listen."
Artscape '95, a three-day celebration of music, food and art, continues today and tomorrow along Mount Royal Avenue.
The mood was mellow as Ms. Austin and headliner Peabo Bryson entertained the opening night festivalgoers, who came in droves despite skies that threatened rain earlier in the evening.
"The thunderstorm is our enemy," said Jane Vallery-Davis, an Artscape official, as she hurried about with walkie-talkie in hand, making sure everything was in place.
The threat of rain passed, and the party was on.
Some Artscape veterans know how to beat the crowd. Orrin S. Webb of Sandtown was sitting in a beach chair last night before the main event started, sipping a soft drink and holding a pair of binoculars. He was sitting about as far stage-right as he could and still see the stage.
"It's a bird's-eye view," he said, peering through the binoculars toward the stage, which was more than 100 yards away.
Although the music may be the biggest draw, Artscape also showcases artists. At the Fine Arts Marketplace, the work of 90 artists is on display for sale, three times the number of artists who have participated in past years.
Craftspeople from Maryland and beyond also are selling their handiwork. Lynette Burbage, a longtime Bolton Hill resident who moved to Georgetown, S.C., last year, was selling bricks with pictures of rowhouse fronts painted on them in acrylic.
"You can use them for doorstops or bookends," she said.
The car show, a hit at last year's Artscape, is making a second appearance. There's one car with a Formstone finish. A Volkswagen is adorned with driftwood, pieces of steel and old farm equipment.
And if you stop by Conrad Bladey's 1978 Dodge Omni, which is completely covered with bumper stickers -- "between zero and infinity" in number, he says -- he will give you a potato. It is a kind of Irish fortune cookie, with two stickers pasted on it, one commemorating the 150th anniversary of Ireland's potato famine and the other with a sort of proverb called a triad.
"It's my effort to get people to pause and think about what it would be like without potatoes," Mr. Bladey said.