Kelly Ennis noted that there’s a curation process to be a vendor at HonFest, an annual event held on several blocks of West 36th Street — or The Avenue — in Hampden that’s dedicated to celebrating the historical working women of Baltimore.
So Ennis said she thought it was a big deal when festival organizers selected her side business selling handmade paper-weaving artwork. Later, she received a message on Instagram telling her she should drop out of the event because it did not support Planned Parenthood.
She did some research and learned about the brewing controversy.
Last week, Planned Parenthood of Maryland, a nonprofit organization that provides low-cost reproductive health care services, including abortions, reported that festival organizers had denied its application to be a vendor at the event. The announcement set off a firestorm on social media, sparking calls for boycotts and causing businesses, including Union Craft Brewing, to withdraw their sponsorships.
HonFest organizers initially defended the decision, stating that the event has always had rules for vendors prohibiting “political, religious, and hot topic issues.” They later backtracked and apologized.
Though Ennis said she felt a little bit uncomfortable, she believed it was important as a vendor to stay and support the artists who depend on the festival for their livelihoods. She decided to put up posters and donate $5 for every piece sold to Planned Parenthood.
Ennis, owner and artist of the Woven Word, was one of numerous vendors and local business owners in Hampden who showed solidarity Saturday with Planned Parenthood at HonFest 2023. Meanwhile, many people who came out to the event wore pink T-shirts and carried signs to demonstrate support for the health care provider. The street fair continues Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
“I think Hampden really came together and rallied,” said Ennis, 53, an interior architect who lives in Mount Washington.
Nicole Sexton, 26, of Reservoir Hill, said she wasn’t in a financial position to donate a portion of sales at Little Devil Antiques.
But Sexton put up a large poster expressing support for Planned Parenthood. It included a QR code directing customers to its website.
Sexton noted that vendors had paid a $300 deposit that’s not refundable. Planned Parenthood of Maryland and Makers of Maryland, she said, urged people on social media to support small businesses, which she appreciated.
Maxi Cifarelli, owner of Maxi Cif Designs, said people started “DMing me like crazy on Instagram” last weekend when she was selling her jewelry at a market in Silver Spring.
Cifarelli said she was disappointed and upset to learn event organizers had denied an application from Planned Parenthood of Maryland to be a vendor. But she said she immediately decided she was not going to boycott the festival.
“I think it’s a more effective protest to attend and lift up their message, than to not attend at all,” said Cifarelli, 31, of Charles Village. “This is my full-time job. It’s my livelihood.”
Cifarelli said she was donating 20% from the sale of a “my body, my choice necklace” that’s shaped like a uterus to Planned Parenthood.
She said she hopes people still come to HonFest and support the artists who worked hard and spent a lot of time, energy and money to appear at the festival.
“We just want to be here to have a fun weekend, sell and meet people and have a nice celebration,” Cifarelli said.
Over at Mobtown Thrift, Ze Noe, 22, and their mother, Genny Dill, 50, both of Hampden, were selling merchandise that included T-shirts that read “#ProChoiceHon.”
Dill said 100% of the profits from those shirts and buttons would benefit Planned Parenthood of Maryland. They were donating 15% of sales of all other merchandise to the nonprofit.
Both of them, she said, are supporters of Planned Parenthood. But Dill said she’s also friends with Denise Whiting, the former owner of Café Hon who started holding a pageant behind the business in 1994 to crown Baltimore’s Best Hon, a term of endearment that’s short for honey. The contest eventually grew into HonFest.
In the end, Dill said, festival organizers apologized. She said it’s great that many vendors are donating and fundraising for Planned Parenthood.
“Forgiveness, I think, is my big takeaway,” Dill said.
Meanwhile, Flaunt Hair Boutique hosted Planned Parenthood of Maryland. The salon saw a steady stream of people come into the business, including Baltimore City Councilwoman Odette Ramos, whose district includes Hampden.
The business community has been “exceptional,” said Erin Bradley, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Maryland, who added that “we can’t thank them enough.”
Bradley said the health care provider could not quantify the level of support it received from people.
“But what I do know is the outpouring of support has been consistent, and it’s been overwhelming,” Bradley said. “It’s really made everyone feel good.”