HONfest truly began many years ago in Baltimore neighborhoods, when local ladies adorned with beehive hairdos and cat-eye glasses, created a culture unique to Baltimore. They were happy, proud women who treated everyone with kindness and called everyone “Hon”.
Fast forward to May of 1994. Cafe Hon had been opened since April 1992, but I had yet to find the right way to participate in the Hampden Summer Fair, a local street festival held each spring on 36th Street. Then it came to me, I could hold a beauty pageant to find “Baltimore’s Best Hon”! I had no idea if anyone would even show up, but I managed to convince some local politicians to judge. Six women, some dressed in boas and leopard print with perfect beehives, and others in house dresses with their hair in curlers showed up to vie for the title. I interviewed each of them, and by the time it was over we had crowned our first Baltimore’s Best Hon!
The Baltimore’s Best Hon Contest was held during Hampden’s Summer Fair until 1996. By then, Cafe Hon had moved to its current location and acquired a large parking lot, just the right place to hold the contest. So we put up a tent, gathered some local merchants and together we launched our own event. We had a Bawlmerese contest, a fashion show and of course, Baltimore’s Best Hon Contest. HONfest had been born.
Sadly the Hampden Summer Fair ended in 1997, but we kept celebrating HONfest in the back parking lot. In 2002, in order to create a more festival-like atmosphere and promote the other merchants in Hampden, permits were acquired for all the merchants to “spill-out” onto the street. The back parking lot was still the center of the event, but it was getting very crowded. So, in 2003 HONfest officially became a street festival, occupying the four city blocks of 36th Street from Chestnut Avenue to Falls Road. That first year was a great success, even “Southern Living Magazine” showed up to cover the event! While HONfest began as a single Saturday, each year it went a little later, eventually becoming the two-day event we know and love. New events and opportunities are added every year, but the crowning event is still the Baltimore’s Best Hon Contest. Some years as many as 36 women have competed for the title. Some contestants have even come from as far away as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and even New Jersey! While the Baltimore’s Best Hon Contest is the event to see, HONfest also serves as an amazing showcase of local artisans, delectable food purveyors and talented musicians.
HONfest is a festival like no other because it is an event that embodies all the charm and goodwill that lies within the hearts of all those who live, work and play in Bawlmer.