The Baltimore Sun

Honfest honors city's heritage

Give me a break, hon. I cannot believe that with all that we have to worry about (war, energy costs, etc.) there are those who want to do away with Hampden's Honfest ("Hon-estly, hon, it's just fun," June 13). Why?

It is only one weekend a year, and many of us enjoy the fun and laughter it offers.

People cannot seem to laugh at themselves or with others these days. Perhaps that is what is wrong with the world today. But life is too short to be taken too seriously.

As for John Waters, April Camlin and any others who would like to see Honfest go away, I say: Get a life and enjoy the simple pleasures while you can.

JoAnn Parrish, Glen Burnie

Are there really no valid issues or causes to fight for in Baltimore? It would appear so, judging by the "backlash" against Honfest.

I moved to Baltimore five years ago because it was a fun and affordable city. We all know that the latter is no longer true. And now it seems there is a movement to ruin the fun.

I look forward to Honfest every year like many Baltimore residents. I couldn't care less about those people who choose to sit around overanalyzing festivals, particularly a wealthy movie director.

Working-class people don't spend their time debating the merits of a local festival - they are too busy working.

When work is over, they like to have fun, and many did so at Honfest this weekend.

Matt Golden, Baltimore

So, John Waters no longer celebrates the "hon" and thinks no one else should. Has he now become our guide to acceptable social conduct?

The critics who bemoan the class character of Honfest are the ones being condescending to the very diverse crowd of residents and visitors who have a fun and happy experience at the festival.

Stephanie Charles, Baltimore

As a homeowner in Hampden for the past eight years, I read the article about the Honfest backlash with interest. And one thing The Sun's reporter missed is that many residents were not too pleased in 2007 when Honfest organizer Denise Whiting received permission from the city to expand the event to Sunday.

A one-day festival is OK. But having your neighborhood overrun for a whole weekend by gawkers looking for colorful locals is too much.

I hope that the city returns Honfest to a one-day event in 2009.

After all, this is not a civic undertaking but a privately run festival that disrupts life for hundreds of taxpaying homeowners.

Jack Purdy, Baltimore

Gas is $4 a gallon, the cost of food has increased exponentially, parts of the country are experiencing tornadoes and floods - and some people have a problem with a two-day party?

Where would we be without a little therapeutic release celebrated with beehives and beer?

Kudos to Denise Whiting.

Jay Block, Pikesville

Honfest's kitschy mix of history and myth has irked some Hampdenites, both longtime blue-collar residents and newer ones, since its inception - a fact I learned when I began interviewing people at Honfest 2002.

However, for a core group of women in the area, dressing up for Honfest is a method of honoring the memory of working-class women in their families, many of whom lived in Baltimore for generations.

While the women who dress up may no longer be working-class, Honfest is a safe space where they can resurrect these women of the past, even if their homage is done through the humorous use of beehive hairdos and blue eyeshadow.

This is especially critical when we consider how little acknowledgment is paid to the history of working-class women in this city and most others.

The textile mills that spawned Hampden in the early 19th century hired many women.

After they closed, Hampden women went to work where they could - factories, diners, stores- in jobs that were often monotonous and dull, which may explain why getting their hair done and dressing up became so important to many of them.

While history may not be foremost in the minds of the thousands of people who come to Honfest, some women are raising those issues in a subtle way. This should be encouraged and connected to the contemporary situation of Baltimore's working women.

Honfest, which may be the city's largest neighborhood festival, is a complicated event in a neighborhood with a long, complicated history.

For that reason, there can be no one right perspective on it.

All perspectives should be considered, including understanding how some women use it to connect with the past.

Mary Rizzo, Jackson, N.J.

The writer is associate director for the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.

Denial won't solve our energy shortfall

Republicans seeking to gain political advantage during an election year by blaming Democrats and environmentalists for a squeeze in oil supplies seem to assume that the Earth is a huge jelly doughnut filled with an infinite supply of oil ("Fast ways to ease gas prices ignored," June 11).

I'm sure we'll be drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge sooner or later, unless we find a way to run our civilization on something other than oil and natural gas.

But we had better get used to the idea of trying to use less energy and of investing in renewable energy. And at this point the United States is hardly even trying to do this.

While Denmark invests in wind energy, Iceland thrives off its geothermal springs, Sweden is getting 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources and even Dubai is investing in solar energy, we sit around and complain about the survival of the American family car trip.

Winston Churchill suggested that Americans could always be counted on to do the right thing once they ran out of other options.

But even that caustic aphorism is inadequate to express the present United States of Denial on the matter of our dwindling energy supplies.

About the only political sense I've heard on this point is from Sen. Barack Obama, who suggested that driving an SUV and living always at 72 degrees are not our future.

And that reminded me faintly of Mr. Churchill's promise of blood, sweat and tears.

Paul R. Schlitz Jr., Baltimore

School board takes new path

I had three reasons in the space of a week to throw my fist in the air, and last Tuesday night's Baltimore County Board of Education meeting provided the biggest.

First, Baltimore County public schools spokeswoman Kara Calder publicly acknowledged that the Loch Raven High School addition project originated with the county executive's office, not the Baltimore County schools.

Second, county school board President JoAnn C. Murphy suggested that the board approved the Loch Raven addition not because it was a good idea but because it didn't want to reject county funds to solve the high school overcrowding problem ("School plan to get a second look," June 10).

And last but not least, the board voted last Tuesday night to rescind its approval of the Loch Raven High School addition ("Schools board cancels addition," June 11).

A corner has been turned. The school board has made it clear that it is now conducting its business differently, taking more time to gather information independently and asking for alternative solutions.

This is great news for all Baltimore County school students and families.

Alyson Bonavoglia, Towson

The writer is vice chairwoman for Towson Families United.

Where's outrage over toddlers killed?

Where is the outrage when two toddlers get shot by gangbangers in front of their own home ("Outrage mingled with fear," June 11)?

God forbid the city has a police-involved shooting, especially if one of the officers is white. Then we often have protesters and hundreds of people in front of City Hall and police headquarters yelling and screaming. But there were no such protests for these innocent toddlers.

Where is the outrage from the clergy and communities?

What is happening to this city? Can we be that cruel and desensitized?

Eric J. Benzer, Baltimore

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