My first time at the Fells Point Fun Festival was just a few weeks after my original arrival in Baltimore for graduate school. My memories of the day are hazy now. I remember I took the bus down from Charles Village by myself. I remember I registered to vote and I had a pit beef sandwich for the first time. I think I had a lemonade and I bought a pair of silver drop earrings with green jade on them, which I wore fairly frequently until they fell apart.
It seems to me I had no idea there was a festival going on before I happened upon it. So was I taking the bus just to see Fells Point? Maybe. Who knows? Nevertheless, it was my very first Baltimore festival. I did not know then that there is a festival somewhere in Baltimore every summer weekend. Most of my classmates never attended a single Baltimore festival for their entire school career at Hopkins. Few of them stayed in town during the summer. They hated Baltimore and couldn’t wait to get away.
After I had finished my doctorate, I moved to Northern Virginia to take a job in Tysons Corner. We moved in the fall, and a few weeks after we arrived, the Fairfax City Fall Festival & Craft Show opened up just a few blocks from our apartment. We were so pleased to discover that they held festivals in Virginia just like they do in Baltimore. Except that they didn’t. First, there was a cover charge to enter. What?! Second, they quarantined the beer drinkers in a crowded parking lot on the other end of the festival from the music. It was really more a Beer Jail than a Beer Garden. Third, it was a craft fair more than anything else–with booth upon booth of kitsch-y kitchen crap. I lost count of the booths offering cast iron frying pans with bucolic country scenes painted on them.
Some time after that, I was at lunch with several coworkers. For some reason, I started telling those at the table about the festivals of Baltimore. The bands, the beer, the dancing, the families, the fun. I mentioned the Fairfax City Festival and its many, many painted skillets by way of comparison. Our host listened and shared with me that, “If you like craft fairs, my wife goes to one that’s probably the best in Virginia.”
Sometimes I surprise myself, and that was one of those occasions. I did not interrupt to tell him how dreadfully he had missed my point. I just smiled and let the conversation drift to other, non-painted-skillet topics.
Anyway, the Fells Point Fun Festivalis this weekend. We headed out today, which turned out a bit cooler than forecast. Boy, the festival has grown! They have a whole Hispanic section now, and they have rides. I got a teriyaki chicken satay, and walked the length and breadth of the festival. They had a special stage for swing dancers.
Given the weather, I’ll bet the guy selling vintage coats made a fortune! We also dropped into a newly opened bar and an old standby. The beer garden was a real garden, in a very pretty park, with a stage for the musical entertainment. We missed the bands this time because they were between sets when we got there, and I felt ill-prepared for the rain that was starting to fall.
But I had fun, and I saw more chihuahuas than I could count. And not a single painted frying pan.