Reporting Ron Matz
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — They are a mainstay in Baltimore, and have been so since the 19th Century, selling fruits and vegetables from their colorful trucks. Now the city’s arabbers are being joined by a group of artists.
Ron Matz reports it will all come together on Sunday.
On Fremont Avenue, you can hear the sound of a Baltimore tradition.
The city’s arabbers are open for business.
“Baltimore is the last city that has continuously operated street vendors,” said Dan Van Allen, president of the Arabber Preservation Society. “We have our own unique wagons, unique harnesses and hollering. Baltimore has become known for its arabbers. They started calling them arabbers sometime in the 19th century.”
Charlie Mclean’s been at it 42 years.
“When I started there were 150 or 200 teams in the streets,” Mclean said. “Nowadays you’ve got maybe five or six. This arabbin is something I don’t think they should do away with. Arabbin’ has always been a good thing especially for a lot of young people.”
“You’ve got a hundred different personalities out there,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to deal with them all. Some areas you go in it’s sweet, some you go in and want to get out of, so it’s an up and down basic thing.”
Now these iconic salesmen are being celebrated by artists who’ve painted these amazing murals at the stable building.
“I wanted to know a little more about it. A lot of my work revolves around nature and around people surviving, so it was a perfect subject matter,” said Gaia, an artist who painted some of the murals. “I painted the mural in front which depicts four generations of arabbers: from man, boy all the way down to his great grandson Amad. That was done a year ago on a project Holden and I were working on, a documentary documenting various lifestyles in Baltimore.”
“I think it’s actually important that they’re made important again,” Warrem said. “That they’re brought back into the community. They’re a vital sort of chain between the producers and the consumers.”
On Sunday the arabbers and artists are throwing a party.
“Sunday we’re going to have an interesting event,” said Holden Warren, vice president of the Arabber Preservation Society. “It will be one half sort of a pop up art gallery and the other half a West Baltimore barbecue. We’ll have a moon bounce. The horses will be here. We’ll have bands and marching bands. This whole outside space will be sort of a barbecue environment. It benefits the Arabber Preservation Society.”
Many years ago, hundreds of arabbers worked the streets of Baltimore. That number is down to about 10.