What does it take to build 150 beehive hairdos in a single weekend?
Fourteen pounds of bobby pins, a case of professional-grade Sebastian Shaper hair spray and six rectangular mirrors topped by pink flamingos. It takes a house band in which the singer doubles as a hairstylist, one zebra-print sectional sofa, a line of Hon-wannabes clutching $20 bills, one generator, two floor fans and — most critically — a cooler full of beer.
"Around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, the beehives start to lean over to one side like the Leaning Tower of Pisa," says Sue Ebert, who has been presiding over the Glamour Lab at Honfest for the past 21 years.
"I tell them that if they tilt their heads, it will look just fine."
Ebert and her three helpers — two daughters and a daughter-in-law — weren't going to run out of coiffure-challenged customers anytime soon. Nonetheless, on the opening day of Honfest 2015, the streets were packed with women who didn't need the Glamour Lab's ministrations. They could create their own beehives, thank you very much.
The festival, which is held annually in Hampden, was started in 1994 by Denise Whiting, owner of Cafe Hon restaurant. Honfest is an affectionate homage to the quintessential Baltimore working-class women who dispense affection and wisdom from beneath a beehive and from behind rhinestone-encrusted cat's-eye glasses.
Sandy, a fluffy Havanese dog, was one such standout. Her head sported a fascinator made out of hot pink feathers that contrasted with her creamy white fur. Sandy was being wheeled through the throng in a baby stroller by her owner, Debbie Addicks of Middle River, but they were making slow progress.
"We're getting stopped every 20 feet by people who want to pet Sandy or take her picture," Addicks said.
After all, what would Honfest be without paparazzi?
There certainly was plenty for them to gawk at, from a tribal drumming demonstration to a woman dressed as a butterfly who sailed by on roller skates.
The most junior Hons-in-training competed in two children's costume competitions. One crowd favorite was Ava Stello, 9, of Arbutus, who was runner-up in the Miss Honette Contest. (The winner, Evelynne Stins, 11, scored major points when she opened her pink flamingo purse and whipped out a tube of hair spray, with which she spritzed the audience.)
Ava's mother, Krystal, put together a skirt made of five yellow 25-pound Domino Sugar bags which she sewed on top of a pink petticoat. Ava wore a tiara that spelled out "Domino Sugar," a crab barrette, Natty Boh earrings, lilac shoes and a bright-red feather boa. She blew kiss after kiss to the crowd.
Krystal Stello said she put everything she loves about Baltimore into her daughter's costume.
"Our house looked right at the Domino Sugars sign," she said. "We played in their parking lot."
But not everyone can be as talented as Krystal, Ada and Evelynne, and those people lined up outside Ebert's Glamour Lab.
Heather McLeod, 29, moved to Baltimore from Texas in January to work for a marketing firm. She's still getting to know her new city, and her friends told her that Honfest was a must-attend.
As a Hon of long standing — Ebert dyed her hair lilac for the occasion — the stylist was determined to make McLeod look like a native. Twist, tease and spritz. Twist, tease and spritz. As she worked on her customer's dark brown, rib-length mane, Ebert instructed her in beehive lore.
"In the 1950s, women would get their hair put into a beehive once a week," she said. "Fancy Hons would wrap their hair in silk scarves before they went to bed. But most people just used toilet paper."
After she finished, McLeod examined her reflection in the mirror. She admired the paper flower tucked above one ear and the sprinkling of sparkly stuff that made her new 'do shimmer.
She looked — there was no other word for it — Honderful.
Ebert gave her one final spritz of spray.
"Don't get into a swimming pool today," she warned, "because you will definitely stick to the side."
If you go
Honfest 2015 continues from noon to 6 p.m. today on 36th Street between Falls and Keswick roads. Free. For details, go to honfest.net.