Could lack of county support spell trouble for future fairs?
Wednesday, 09 July 2014 14:16

Baltimore County offered plastic tables and folding chairs, rather than the usual wooden picnic tables, for this year’s Heritage Fair. photo by Michael Rodman

 by Nicole Rodman

Former Dundalk resident Rick Sheppard and his wife travel from Harford County each year to attend all three days of the Dundalk Heritage Fair.
    This year, as they walked around the fair, they thought they noticed fewer trash cans and picnic tables in the park.
    It wasn’t just their imaginations.
    According to Joe Falbo, president of the Dundalk Heritage Fair Association,  Baltimore County did not provide trash barrels and picnic tables as it has in previous years.
    The county’s lack of support for the fair, Falbo alleged, extends far beyond a few tables and trash barrels.
    The picnic tables used by the fair were actually built by the fair committee years ago, Falbo explained.
    As he noted, the committee lent the tables to the county with the understanding that they would be returned each year for use during the Heritage Fair.   
    And they had been returned — until this year.
    This year, Falbo noted, the county did not return the tables to the park. The few picnic tables present at the fair were retrieved from Chesterwood Park by fair volunteers.
    According to Bryan Sheppard, the county executive’s special assistant for outreach, “the county does not move picnic tables between venues because they are simply too heavy and that would not be practical.”
    He did note that the county provided tables and chairs.
    While Falbo acknowledged that plastic tables and folding chairs were offered, he noted that they were “wobbly” and did not meet the fair’s needs.
    Sheppard also noted that the county offered cardboard trash containers for use during the fair.
     Falbo dismissed the containers as inadequate, noting that they fall apart when liquid trash is disposed of.
    According to Falbo, the county’s landscaping of the park was also inadequate compared to past years.
    “[The county] waited until the last minute to cut the grass when the park was already half set up,” Falbo noted.
    As Sheppard replied, “It is customary to cut the grass as close as possible to a festival so that the grounds will be in prime condition when the festival begins.” 
    Falbo also noted that the county neglected to trim low-hanging limbs from trees in the park despite many requests.Fair volunteers ended up trimming the trees themselves.
    While Sheppard alleged that Falbo requested “live trees” be removed from the park, Falbo said that the limbs in question were all dead.
    According to Falbo, the county’s alleged lack of support extends beyond tables and trees to threaten the existence of the fair itself.
     As Falbo explained, he was told by high-level county officials that next year’s Heritage Fair would be Dundalk’s last.
    “I was told maybe we can do [the fair] again next year and that’s it,” Falbo said.
    “They said, ‘It’s going to be real tough to do it next year but the year after that — forget it’,” Falbo said.
    Sheppard denied Falbo’s allegations.
    “It is simply not accurate to suggest that the county said the fair might not be able to take place in the future,” Sheppard said. “That was never said.”
    He added, “The county has supported the festival each and every year and we look forward to continuing that broad support for decades to come.”
    For his part, Falbo is sticking to his account and encouraging residents to make their voices heard concerning the future of the Dundalk Heritage Fair.
    In the meantime, Falbo and his fellow volunteers are setting their sights on next year’s festivities.