As the warm weather alternated with the rain in Middle Branch Park, Baltimoreans slowly trickled down to the seventh annual Cherry Hill Arts and Music Waterfront Festival on Tuesday afternoon, where people ate, drank and danced as they waited for fireworks.
Despite a weekend that has shaken the city, people showed up to a day of festivities in South Baltimore and the Inner Harbor. The tragedy of the Brooklyn Day shooting, where two people died and 28 others were injured, lingered. But those who attended the festival in Cherry Hill not only felt safe, but also felt it was important to go.
“Festivals like this try to get the people to come back as one,” said Joseph Hughes, who grew up in Cherry Hill.
Lindsey Eldridge, city police spokesperson, said Monday that the Police Department was going to have “enhanced deployment in multiple parts of the city for the holiday.”
Before the festival came to be seven years ago, the neighborhood had its own community festivals, though much smaller and local. Margaret Chase remembers her mother holding her close as her family sat on top of a wall near the hospital facing the harbor, so Chase, then only 7, could see the fireworks at night.
This Fourth of July, Chase propped a chair in the shade of a tree, where she could still hear the music, but at a volume that wouldn’t upset her Yorkiepoo puppy, Persia. Chase was excited to see Monie Love, one of the hip-hop artists in the lineup, and Baltimore club music, and the energy they would bring.
What stays the same, years later, she said, is the sense of community.
“I just love my city regardless of what goes down,” she said.
Chase noticed that turnout seemed a bit lower than usual, likely because people could be hesitant to go out after the shooting. But Chase said she did not feel unsafe, noting police officers patrolling around.
The crowd didn’t seem small to Marcus Stevenson, who stood by a steamer pot and wore an apron that read “Charm City Crab.” Sales were steady midafternoon, and he hopes the festival will give him the exposure he needs to grow his business. It’s only the second festival he has attended as a vendor, he said.
“I’d like to be one of Baltimore’s suppliers for crab,” he said. His other goal, he said, is that his kids have a good time running around the park.
Not far from Stevenson’s truck, Gia Johnson-Parker and Bea Queen lay on matching bright pink towels in the shade behind the row of vendors. There was a stand where a woman did face painting for kids, Queen said, and a barbecue place that smelled “amazing” next to where people lined up for shaved ice. Kids wandered around and families brought out the grills to cook food. One man offered them a hot dog, Queen said.
The city gets a bad reputation sometimes, Johnson-Parker said. But Baltimore has so much to offer in culture and community, she added.
“This is what Baltimore is,” Johnson-Parker said. “The more people see that, and the more events they have like this ... people will have a different impression of Baltimore City.”
Teens walked around the Inner Harbor early evening, when the sun was still up and the clouds had begun to fade. A man who just minutes before been playing football carried a toddler, showing her a boat. The crowd migrated to the front of the Baltimore Symphony as time drew closer to the start of its concert, arranging themselves in beach chairs and towels.
In Rash Field Park, a volleyball tournament that had started around 12:30 p.m. went through the early evening. A group of men played football on the grass around the beach volleyball court.
”It has been a little hot, but people seem to be having a good time,” said Annette Haldeman, who was part of the winning volleyball team.
That isn’t to say the shooting wasn’t on people’s minds. Mayor Brandon Scott, who arrived at the harbor in a kayak, told the crowd to remember the families in Brooklyn.
”As a city we have to continuously wrap our arms around them, especially for those who will not be able to celebrate with their families who have lost folks, who are still in the hospital,” Scott said.