A colorful celebration of eclectic urban life


Charles Village played host yesterday to a raucous celebration of its own urban life, closing down three main streets to let pass a cast of Baltimore characters who danced, stomped, yelled, drummed and drove their way through a nearly two-hour parade.

It was a community giving voice to itself in sometimes ear-splitting fashion, part of the annual eclectic kickoff to the two-day Charles Village Festival. The festival continues today with food, bands and crafts at the Wyman Park Dell, near 30th and Charles streets.

The sky was gray and the rain held off, but the colors nonetheless ran - and walked, rode and danced - in the street, apropos for a parade whose theme was "Welcome to Colorville."

Dressed in yellow, 2 1/2 -year-old Celia Katz rolled along in a stroller as her mother, Elizabeth Zogby, in blue, and her father, Greg Katz, sporting a tie-dyed shirt and overalls and carrying a shovel, accompanied her. The three were walking with the Children of the World Co-op, a chattering, squiggling Charles Village play group with a garden motif.

"We're supposed to be gardeners, and she's supposed to be a garden bug," said Zogby, who augmented her street clothes by wearing her daughter's rejected bug antennae and red-streaked cardboard wings. "I'm pregnant, so there are only so many maternity clothes you can come up with."

Not far behind came Holly and Larry Klemm of Ellicott City in "Blue Hawaiian," a 1988 Chevy Celebrity decorated with swimming fish painted on blue sides and a "sandcastle" on top.

"It's PVC piping, a cooler and funnels," Larry Klemm explained as he leaned out the car's passenger window in his Hawaiian shirt.

There were belly dancers and library groups, Stroller Striders and - seemingly most popular with onlookers - dance and drum corps teams.

"I've been with this group for 13 years," said Shanika Lee, 25, of the New Edition Marching Band, as she caught her breath after high-kicking, dancing and marching near the end of the parade with her daughter, Nikiya, 8. "We just enjoy it. We got people who come from North Carolina and New Jersey just to see this marching band."

In the approximate middle strode the Charles Village Noisemakers, a neighborhood group that prides itself on playing loudly and off-key. The group's most popular instrument appeared to be cookie sheets, which yelling members played by booting them up the street.

Andreas Spiliadis sings and plays in a rock band, but yesterday he left his guitar at home in favor of other instruments. So did his daughters Tali, 7, who was banging a frying pan with a utensil, and Zoe, 9, who pulled a pile of clambering pans and coffee cans behind her on a rope.

"We're in our seventh or eighth year," Spiliadis shouted about the Noisemakers as he kicked a pot up St. Paul Street while beating on plastic buckets with a soup ladle, just behind his daughters and his wife, Pam. "It keeps on evolving. The kids are getting bigger. They're getting louder."

Each year, the festival seeks to raise money for a variety of neighborhood groups, netting about $14,000 last year despite rain on the first day. This year's beneficiaries are the Charles Village Recreation League, Friends of the Wyman Park Dell, Village Learning Place and Charles Village Civic Association.

Among those taking in the parade was David Bergman, who has lived in the village on and off for more than 30 years.

Yesterday, he watched from a prime piece of sidewalk in front of his home in the 3600 block of Charles with about a dozen friends, some clutching mimosas.

"I've never been in the parade because it's too fun to watch," he shouted as the Noisemakers approached. "I don't think there's another parade in Baltimore like this. It's just funkier, and people are having a better time than others."

The festival continues today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. More information: www.charlesvillage.net .

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