After a two-year hiatus, the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) teamed up with Maryland first lady Yumi Hogan to bring back the Neighborhood Spring Festival. The annual event brings a beautiful blend of arts, culture, community, and spring fun to the Poppleton neighborhood in West Baltimore.
“It feels incredible to be back here after the COVID pandemic prevented us from hosting the festival the last two years,” said Brian Sturdivant, MSW, director of strategic initiatives and community partnerships for UMB’s Office of Community Engagement. “We love having face-to-face contact and have missed it so much. Our whole staff is out here and ready to be with our neighbors again.”
The festival took place May 7 on a cloudy and rainy day, but that did not stop dozens of neighbors from coming out to enjoy the food, fun, and entertainment. On the corner of Poppleton and Baltimore streets stood an enormous tent that was large enough to keep the rain out and the excitement in.
During the festival, there were many activity booths set up including hat making from the The Tattered Hatter, face painting from Sparkles the Clown, and reptile petting from Scales and Tales. The Oriole Bird and Ravens’ mascot Poe also were there to drum up excitement and take photos with guests.
There also was free food and drinks from local vendors and dance performances by local studios. The performances included several youth groups performing traditional Korean dances like the flower crown dance, a sword dance, and Samulnori, a form of Korean percussion music. The festival also featured a special showcase of students from Cadet Martial Arts and Fitness.
Shawmain Wilson, a community member, was excited to see her daughter perform in the karate showcase.
“I can’t wait to see what they’re gonna do because they’ve been practicing for hours,” she said. “I don’t live too far away, so being out here together and having her perform in person feels really good.”
In addition to the fun activities, games, and performances, there were several health and wellness booths including one where neighbors could sign up and receive a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot.
This festival was not just an opportunity for neighbors to enjoy a fun afternoon together, but also a chance to strength the camaraderie and community within the neighborhood.
“Looking at what’s going on around the nation, around the world, and around Baltimore, it means a lot to see smiles and groups getting together having a good time in spite of everything,” said Marc Glasco, a Baltimore neighbor whose son performed a karate routine at the festival. “Coming out of two years of the pandemic and being with community and family on Mother’s Day weekend seems to be quite appropriate.”
This feeling of community and support is exactly why UMB partners with Hogan to put on the Neighborhood Spring Festival every year. Organizers look forward to continuing this event every year and adding in more community participants.
“We're all neighbors here,” Sturdivant said. “UMB is an anchor institution in West Baltimore. Everything we do is done in partnership with our West Baltimore neighbors, and that’s why it’s important that we’re here today as one community.”