When a longstanding Hampden street festival came to an end in 2023, business owners in the neighborhood knew they needed a plan.

Susannah Siger’s customers at Ma Petite Shoe seemed to be coming out of hibernation from the COVID-19 pandemic and craving a sense of community. Local nonprofits that relied on community events for financial support were hurting. But plenty of new businesses along The Avenue were opening too.

The cancellation of Hampdenfest 2023 in the fall was followed by the announcement in January that HonFest would permanently wrap after 30 years. HonFest representatives cited the enormous workload as a reason for folding. Organizers for Hampdenfest have not announced dates in 2024. They said they canceled last fall as because of Artscape’s move to September in 2023. (Artscape is set for August this year.)

Siger teamed up with Samantha Claassen, owner of the restaurant Golden West, and other neighborhood merchants to plan a new event called Hampden Highlights, a one-day festival along 36th Street between Falls Road and Chestnut Street scheduled for June 1, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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“This is a way to appreciate what we have,” Siger said.

Although the event will fill part of the calendar left vacant by HonFest, Siger and Claassen said Hampden Highlights will be cozier.

HonFest “was like an old-growth tree,” Claassen said. “You can’t replace it, but its absence allows other things to flourish.”

Hampden Highlights will lean hard into celebrating local businesses and vendors in and around the 21211 zip code. Organizers have eschewed exclusive sponsorships with established beverage brands in favor of highlighting local breweries, restaurants and specialty drink stores. They’re also shying away from big bandstands by lining up local bands and buskers.

While the beehive hairdos and feather boas seen around HonFest aren’t likely getting a reprise, Siger said toiletbowl races like the ones previously seen at Hampdenfest will return. The race isn’t directly affiliated with Hampden Highlights but is being organized for the same day on Chestnut Street, she said.

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The goal with Hampden Highlights is to reflect the “welcoming, diverse, creative and fun” community, Siger said.

Proceeds from the event will support three nonprofits — St. Luke’s Church on the Avenue, Art with a Heart and Planned Parenthood. The latter choice was a deliberate nod to the fallout for HonFest organizers after rejecting its vendor application for 2023.

“It’s a festival with a mission,” Siger said. “We’re underscoring the Hampden community, the nonprofits we love, the wonderful shops and entrepreneurship.”

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