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November 27, 2021

Hampdenfest draws over 20,000 attendees

By GEORGINA RUPP | September 25, 2014

Hampdenfest 2014, an event held annually on The Avenue, brought between 20,000 and 30,000 visitors to Hampden on Saturday. The event featured toilet races, live music performances and a “Hampden’s Got Talent” karaoke competition. Numerous local vendors were also in attendance, offering a wide range of food and drink, art, jewelry and information about local groups.

The booths participating at Hampdenfest included beer from The Brewer’s Art, Charm City Cakes, which had a three-tiered cake on display and the colorful Gypsy Queen food truck, which won the title “Best Food Truck in Baltimore.” Ma Petite Shoe, a Hampden boutique specializing in shoes and chocolate, participated in the festival, with a sidewalk stand serving up fresh crepes and homemade Rice Krispie treats.

Benn Ray, director of music and entertainment for Hampdenfest, viewed the event as the kickoff to the village’s fall season.

“It can bring out thousands of area residents and visitors,” Ray wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “There is another festival in the spring called Hon Fest. This is not an official Hampden community festival so much as a festival put on by the Cafe Hon. The two festivals are quite different.”

Hampdenfest has existed in its current form since 2013, according to Ray, although it was established long before 2013. Hampdenfest was initially a part of Fall Fest and later was renamed the Hampden Village Fall Festival.

“I’ve been able to trace Hampden’s tradition of an autumnal festival as far back as the 1970s,” Ray wrote.

When Hampdenfest 2014 was cancelled back in July because of funding deficits, there was a marked backlash by Hampdenites and fans. This surge of complaints culminated in the rescheduling of the festival, which, until this year, had always taken place on the second Saturday of September. Following an outpouring of support for the festival, City Council representatives and Hampdenfest organizers made sure the event would take place after all.

A number of factors go into planning the event, including sponsorship, vendor management, entertainment and permitting. Funding for the festival comes primarily from vendor fees, beer sales and sponsorship.

In addition to the many excited attendees, participants in the festival went above and beyond to get into the spirit of Hampdenfest and celebrate traditional Hampdenfest activities, the most famous of which is the toilet race.

Costumes ranged from bathrobes to an outfit complete with a gas mask, leather gloves and a cape. The contraptions that participants designed, “racers”, were also unique. All racers had one thing in common: the toilet bowl on which they sat. The race is comprised of a long list of official rules. Each team consists of one pilot, one to two crew members and the racer, which is defined on the Hampdenfest 2014 website as “the defecation-device-based vehicle itself.” The racer must be gravity-powered and must fit the dimension constraints.

The winner is determined by the participant that gets the best time. Stool Pigeon was this year’s toilet race champion.

Ginny Rogers, a senior spectator of the event, was amused by the quirkiness of the races.

“I love that the winner won a golden toilet seat and the runner up got a silver plunger,” Rogers said. “And at the end, a band incorporated the name of the winning team and made up a song on the spot. Everyone started singing along.”

There was no shortage of entertainment at Hampdenfest. In addition to the toilet bowl race, there was a host of performances on three different stages and in the Kids’ Tent, including a surprise showing by special guest band Future Islands, which was announced on Thursday.

Senior Ben Strober enjoyed his first Hampdenfest experience.

“It was great to see a solid community coming together,” he said.

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