It rained off-and-on from morning past noon, but that did not deter early-arrivers at this year’s Festival on the Hill – especially those lining up to be first in line for used books and “Juniquities” bargains. By the time the day ended, hundreds had wandered up and down Bolton St. and around the corner to slurp hundreds of oysters, consume a ton of smoked chicken, sandwiches and desserts and wash it all down with beer, wine and soft drinks
They had tarot cards read to divine their futures, bought original plein air paintings of the neighborhood, chatted with a clown on stilts, visited booths from all sorts of artists and organizations and listened to a wide range of local musicians. At one booth 38 children learned to do traditional Baltimore screen painting, led by Michael Seipp. Many carried home pansies from the Bolton Hill Garden Club’s booth.
Louie Wilder and Lee Tawney, who led a small army of volunteers to assemble this year’s festival, were especially moved by the young musical performers. “The Midtown Academy Chorus opened and was wonderful, as were two sisters, Kiera and Clare Noonan, who sang, played and danced to Irish songs. And the Catonsville High School Steel Band was back after several years’ absence, this time directed by a young man who was one of the student players at our festival maybe 20 years ago,” said Tawney.
Taking down the flags a day later, Tawney said he met a young couple who had just moved into a rented house in the neighborhood. “They told me they furnished their new home with furniture and stuff they bought at the festival and from Memorial Episcopal’s pew sale,” he said.
Institutions operating their own booths this year were able to raise and keep their funds, including Brown Memorial Church, Corpus Christi Church, Bolton Hill Barracudas swim team, the garden club, Bolton Hill Nursery, Mt. Royal School, Midtown Academy, Daughters of the British Empire, the Ukrainian Committee and Booker T. Washington School, among others.
The festival has its roots in the Eisenhower-era with church bazaars organized by women of Memorial Episcopal Church. In 1969 they expanded and became the outdoor Festival on the Hill. Stacey Wells, on behalf of the church, presented a bouquet and led applause for Lottie Shivers, who was one of the original organizers of the first festival in 1955.