Controversy Over Glasses At Honfest

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Honfest, a street festival in Hampden, has generated some controversy this year.

As Mike Schuh reports, the organizer of Honfest says she’s heard the uproar and is making changes for next year.

 Honfest has been taking over the streets of the Avenue for 18 years.

Denise Whiting opened Cafe Hon and in turn started Honfest. Since she started Honfest she has six rules all vendors must agree to. Rule number two states: No cat eye glasses can be sold on the street. Whiting sells them as a fundraiser.

“It is not unusual for a festival to have exclusivity, whether it be bottled water, or whatever the particular product is,” said Whiting. “We didn’t want anybody with a big booth out on the street doing what we do.” 

For five years, not a single person has caused a fuss over her second rule…until now. Some of the merchants think the cat eye glasses exclusivity is a bit much. 

“Just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean you always should do something,” said a merchant.

Due to the controversy, Whiting arrived at the annual Hampden Business Association meeting with a compromise.

Whiting proposed that the “cat eye glasses” rule would be for the outside vendors only, not for local businesses. And next year, the entire business community can help write the rules.

“It’s an opportunity to start a Honfest event committee and involve the merchants. The merchants haven’t been involved in a couple of years,” said Whiting.

Whiting’s business is successful and known worldwide. She said she organizes Honfest because she loves Baltimore and without it 50,000 people would be  disappointed.

“Is it difficult? I’d be lying to say, ‘No, it’s a piece of cake’…it’s not,” said Whiting. “There are a lot of things that go into this for everybody and we’re not going to be perfect every time.”

This year’s controversial rules or not, Honfest is still a go. This year’s Honfest is this Saturday and Sunday in Hampden.

Honfest is a nonprofit corporation that donated $30,000 to the Hampden area causes and charities.

More from Mike Schuh
  • Janice Bowen

    Would some one please identify the charities are to whom this alleged $30,000 has gone. No federal non-profit filing has ever been made to the charity set up by Ms. Whiting that was to be the beneficiary of proceeds from Honfest. If you are going to report it, please back it up.

    We keep hearing this, but when asked, Ms. Whiting has failed to provide any specifics. Please verify your facts or don’t report them as such.

  • Mike

    Why is this community allowing this woman to be a dictator??

    The other businesses need to decide not to participate and then start their own festival and exclude her from participating, on principal alone. Stand up and fight back….put her out of business if she thinks she can make rules that suit only her and not the community.

    Also, like the post above says, demand to know what she has done with the monies raised in past years and require her to provide a detailed accounting of all proceeds this year!!!!
    IF she is not on the up and up, stick together and throw her out of the community simply by underselling her and make it diffucult for her to continue to do business in your community

  • lynn

    the money is in her pocket and business.I for one will not be there.Will go to the other business not hers.

  • Darryl Levine

    I started going to Honfest 10 years ago. It was a relatively small event in an area that looked pretty marginal at best. Ms. Whiting should get a lot of credit for almost single handedly leading the effort to bring this area back. It is easy to be on the outside and complain.

  • Michelle

    Thank you Ms. Bowen, that is what most of us, especially those of us who live in Hampden, would like to know. It is my understanding that it is very little considering what she’s made during the last 18 years of Honfest. And if that is the case, don’t false advertise and make it seem as though you’re holding this event and are giving back to the community which has been supporting you. There are many places, people, etc within Hampden that could greatly use those donations. The people that don’t live in the area don’t see that side of things, they go by what Ms. Whiting states. I’d like to see the proof, I think many would be surprised at Ms. Whitings lack of support in Hampden.

  • Barb

    The main picture is not funny at all. It is a crude characterization of native Baltimorean working class women. They are turning these hard-working women into court jesters and clowns and purely making fun of them. That is all. They are not celebrating a damn thing. As John Waters put it- most of the real women these characterizations are based upon are either in nursing homes in their 80s and 90s or dead. It’s sad that Whiting and Honfest profits off turning Baltimore neighborhoods into a freak show for out-of-town suburbanites, yuppies, and hipsters to gawk at those “endearing hons”. It turns my stomach.

  • Tracy S.

    50,000 people would be disappointed? Really? Certainly not the residents and merchants of Hampden. And yes…what specific charities has she so generously donated to and how much has gone to each? Shouldn’t she be held accountable for her claims? Honfest is highly overrated. I’m not a resident of Hampden, but I am sick and tired of people acting as if it was a horrible neighborhood headed for the brink of destruction until she came along. I love my city an am proud to be from Baltimore. If you think it was/is so terrible, maybe you shouldn’t be here.

  • bmore

    Denise Whiting is obnoxious. She thinks she is the queen of Baltimore. Honfest isnt even that fun.

  • Jes

    Growing up Honfest wasn’t Honfest – it was a neighborhood festival for kids in late May. I remember pony rides and carnival games. She took that event and turned into nothing but a drinking festival. Yes, I consider Honfest to be nothing more than a drinking festival. Whiting is not the only reason that merchants came back to the area, she is not the only reason the Avenue was revitalized, but many think that way because her business is well known.

  • Jes

    Oh and I doubt the residents of Hampden would care if there were no Honfest. The vast majority are stuck inside of our houses all weekend because if we leave we can’t get back OR let alone find a parking spot within walking distance to our house. The parking situation has only been made worse by those 50,000 people coming in to the neighborhood.

  • Mario Saint Michael Sciuto

    Hon fest or Hitler Fest 2011??
    As a past Hampden dweller of the late 1950’s \ early – Mid- 1960’s.

    I say;” Eww Denise Eww -be do”.
    “Do you really want to trash the people who walk into Cafe’ Hon weekly do- you-now truly- do you do”?

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