BALTIMORE CITY ARCHIVES
The City Fair is Baltimore's annual event to celebrate neighborhood comradery and enthusiasm for city living. The idea began when Robt. C. Embry, Jr., Commissioner of the Department of Housing and Community Development was approached by Stanley Panitz. He wanted suggestions as to how he might promote townhouses he had built in Bolton Hill. Embry referred Panitz to Hope Quackenbush and Sandra Hillman, who were public relations aids in HCD. A decision was reached to not only promote the townhouses in Bolton Hill, but Harlem Park Community, since HCD had invested millions of dollars in urban renewal funds there. Although these communities were initially unreceptive, further collaboration produced an acceptable idea, Thus originated the City Fair as an urban equivalent to its successful counterpart . . . the County Fair. Neighborhood leaders assembled to formulate plans. To cover the problem of overhead expenses, each participating neighborhood was required to pay a deposit of $200 which was not refundable should the fair be unsuccessful. However neighborhoods would be permitted to keep the proceeds generated from any booth sales. These funds would be a source of revenue for neighborhood improvements.
Since the City Fair had no precedent of operation, its officers began on a shoestring, using whatever was available. The first office became the then vacant Benson furniture building at Charles and Franklin Streets. Office equipment was the cast-off desks from the city school system. As the News American reported "George Piendak, the City's budget director, who was also the fair's first treasurer, inherited his volunteer job by walking into the City Fair office to inquire what was happening there."
Although an atmosphere of informality existed, considerable time and effort including money were donated. Monies from ticket: admissions helped defray operating costs.
The City Fair proved to be a phenomenal success in drawing large crowds of otherwise apprehensive Marylanders to the downtown area. Even competitive city bureaucracies joined in civic cooperation. This attitude continues to prevail as the standard for today's City Fair.