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Big hair & worlds biggest crabcake at Baltimore’s Honfest 2009

June 14, 2009

Welcome to Hampden Hon!

HonsThis weekend , June 13th & 14th, the annual Honfest street festival
returned to Hampden in Baltimore Maryland.

From the honfest website “HonFest is a local tradition. The ‘Bawlmer’ term of endearment, Hon, short for Honey, embodies the warmth and affection bestowed upon our neighbors and visitors alike by historic working-women of Baltimore. HonFest is an annual celebration in honor of these women. Since 1994, HonFest has grown from a tiny Baltimore’s Best Hon pageant behind Café Hon, to a nationally recognized festival that covers four city blocks on Hampden’s very own 36th Street.”

Hey Hon

During HonFest, woman and girls, some men and even a few dogs come from all around Maryland dressed up in a somewhat exaggerated 50s-60s era Baltimore ladies style, complete with beehive hairdos, cat eye glasses, leopard & other wild prints, boas & big jewelry.  Some of these “hons” compete in the Baltimore’s Best Hon or Little Miss Hon pageant, where they are judged on their outfit & style,  and their command over ” Bawlmerese “.  The pageants tongue-in-cheek motto is ” The higher the hair, the closer to god”.

For those wishing they had dressed up, have no fear- you can pick up an outfit while you’re there, if you’d like.  Beehive wigs, cat eye glasses, and fun clothes of all varieties are for sale, and there’s also a beauty parlor tent with hairdressers and markup artists standing by to bring out your inner Hon.

Like the over-the-top outfits, throughout the day you’re sure to hear an exaggerated version of the local dialect “Bawlmerese” or “Baltimorese” spoken throughout the crowd, and highlighted in the Hon pageant where contestants this year were asked to pick a Bawlmerese word and explain its meaning by using it in a sentence. (Much to the crowds amusement i might add, as people recognize and take pride in this subtle verbal or auditory bond, &/or laugh as the peculiar pronunciations are poked fun at). Thicker dialects or accents are a bit more common among Baltimoreans of the areas of Hampden, Canton, Dundalk, Essex, Locust Point or Highlandtown for example. Though almost all natives have a few words that tell where they hail from.

Bawlmerese is characterized by its particular pronunciation of the vowels “o”  “a” & “u”, adding of letters (for example “wash” becomes “warsh”),  the omission of one of more syllables in a word, or the combining of words. ( Like- Jeet-nuf?  = Did you eat enough?)
Some common examples of this dialect can be found at:  Lexicon of Bawlamarese – (How to co-moon-icate wiff the natives) 🙂

Hon ContestThis years Baltimore's Best Hon contestants.

But wild outfits aren’t the only reason to check out the Honfest. It’s become a celebration of all things Baltimore. Local merchants & artists sell their wares on the streets, alongside some great food and beer vendors. Ever wanted a crabshell painted with the Ravens insignia? How about one with the Inner Harbor painted on it? You can find tons of Ravens & O’s gear and decor, local folk art such as painted screens, and so much more. Shops around the area put on special sales, so its also a great time to find a good bargain and check out some of the wonderful little boutiques and hotspots around 36th Street. There’s live music and street preformers at every corner, games, and everything else typical of a street festival.
A few events including the dunking booth, where you can dunk local radio and news hosts, were charity driven with proceeds going to Maryland Special Olympics.  One of those events was the creation and sale of the worlds largest crabcake:

HPIM4450Gotta love those crab hats!
worlds biggest crabcake" Worlds biggest crabcake "
Good god, look at that thing! 😮

I overheard someone say that this beast of a crabcake weighed in at over 240 pounds. Cooking time took about  9 hours, from 4am to 1pm. It required 4 men to lift it carefully into place to be served to the awaiting crowd. The local paper says it was about $2,400 worth of crabmeat. Paperwork will now be submitted to the Guinness book of world records for verification.

So coming from a Baltimore native, I welcome you to come to Honfest today for round 2 of the Best Hon competition and to check out all the vendors, live music, & fun little oddities. Come out and support this vibrant little Baltimore community and help to stimulate the economy in a good old fashioned summer fun sorta way ~.^

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