By Kurt Jacobson
There’s a lot of positive energy in Baltimore Maryland these days. The latest hot news is the second helping of Light City. This blazing festival of light is bigger and better than the previous year’s offering.
With more than twenty-five light features spread out on a path following the Inner Harbor and beyond the city danced with light for nine days. The question is, how many will attend 2017’s version? A third helping of lights are on tap for April 2018 and promises to enlighten those who attend this free event.
A history lesson
Let’s back up a bit on Baltimore history. Baltimore Maryland, aka Charm City, is a city of firsts including B&O Railroad’s passenger and freight service, the modern printing press, post office system, pressure cooker, electric streetcars, Catholic Basilica, first public Washington Monument, and the first city street lights.
That’s quite a list for a city known to most outsiders for R&R- Raven’s football and riots. There is so much more to Baltimore and I have seen significant changes in the eight years since moving here.
As an outsider from the west, I feel qualified to present a non-locals view of Baltimore.
The Inner Harbor is a showpiece any city would be proud to have. There’s something to see or do in this vibrant part of Baltimore year-round. Whether it’s world-class dining, recreation, concerts, or just a stroll along the waterfront; the Inner Harbor and surrounding waterfront is a happening place.
A key benefactor
The growth of Under Armour, the clothing business started by Kevin Plank in his garage, now employs more than 14,000. Under Armour has helped revitalize the city of Baltimore and is known as one of the best places to work in the area.
Mr. Plank has also opened a new hotel on the site of the old Recreation Pier, the building used for the precinct office in the TV show, The Wire. Also recently opened by Kevin Plank is the Sagamore Spirits whiskey distillery and Rye Street Tavern. Both are located in a former industrial wasteland are receiving rave reviews.
Housing construction has been booming for the last five years in Baltimore drawing new residents to a healthier city than the one portrayed by the media during the Freddie King riots.
Yes, there are still significant differences between certain neighborhoods in Baltimore, but I believe the city is on the right track to provide opportunities for a good life for all its residents. Judging from the crowd, I saw at the latest Light City Festival in the Inner Harbor there’s a lot of happiness right now.
People feel safe enough to bring young children to this night-time event. Revelers of all ages were present and having a good time. While chatting with a group of four revelers at a beer station table, I asked where they were from, and they said, “Two of us are from Baltimore, and the other two are from DC.”
I was impressed people from DC would come up to Baltimore for the Light City celebration.
And what a celebration it was. On Monday night the crowds were moderate due to the opening day of Oriole’s baseball and light rain. On Wednesday night I was surprised to see the hundreds of people, maybe thousands flocking to the lights.
I was also surprised to see beer, wine, and Sagamore Whiskey for sale in several locations for consuming outdoors. Who knew the city of Baltimore would allow people to walk around the Inner Harbor with drinks in hand legally!
I asked three young men that seemed to be having a great time with the festivities if they were here last year and they said, “We were here last year but this year is way better!” They were part of a crowd that was a healthy mix of black and white, young and old, all loving the town lit up bigger than Christmas.
Lighting things up
Other than seeing the attendees having a ball, the highlights were the light installations. Some were interactive like “Ovo” a Fabergé egg pattern of diamond shapes. It was big enough to allow five or more people inside the tall, multi-colored sculpture.
“Our House” was a web of nylon fiber, illuminated and stretched across the suspension bridge connecting piers 3 and 4. This web kept changing colors, having a hypnotic effect on viewers.
“The Pool” changed colors with daytime, sunset, and night time. The Pool light feature was a feet-on interactive light spot with almost all of the lit-up disks occupied by kids and adults alike.
As we crossed the bridge between piers 3 and 4, we heard loud drumming over by the Power Plant building. Upon investigating, it turned out to be Circus of Wonders/Squonk. This marching drum band and circus-like performers on stilts drew quite a crowd. How crazy is it to be on stilts at night in a tight crowd!
Light City is more than just lights and entertainment. There are six innovative conferences dedicated to sparking social change. These daytime conferences featured best-selling author Alec Ross, restaurateur Marcus Samuelson, and others seeking to make our world and Baltimore a better place to live.
More than Light City
Baltimore already has several great festivals and events. There’s the Honfest in the Hampton neighborhood, Kriskindl Market at the Inner Harbor, Artscape in Station North, WTMD radio first Thursday concerts in Canton, and Belvedere Square summer concert series. All of the above are free events. There’s also a Pride Festival that’s been going on for more than 40 years.
Food festivals on offer include a Craft Beer Festival, Oyster Festival in Federal Hill, Baltimore Seafood Festival in Canton that always seems to sell out, and the Greek Folk Festival in Greek Town- a family-friendly event that’s free to attend.
Add to the mix Ravens football and the Orioles baseball teams for excellent sports entertainment. Furthermore, the National Aquarium, the Museum of Industry, Historic Ships, Visionary Art Museum, the Peabody Institute, and Baltimore Museum of Art are even more reasons to visit.
Like I always say, “Life is full of surprises, and some of them are good ones.” Light City was a pleasant surprise.
I hope to attend the third year of this electric celebration if travel plans don’t get in the way.
Check out the April schedule to help plan your visit. My wish is that you come and see the positive aspects of Baltimore and have a blast.
Maybe then you will forget about the riots when you think of Baltimore and see its good side.
Kurt Jacobson lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and spent many years as a professional chef. Now he travels the world and shares his stories here and on other travel websites.
This article was last modified on March 1, 2018 5:33 pm