ESSEX — It was a moderately hot summer’s day full of joy and good cheer in the community on Saturday in Essex. Rock ‘n’ roll music thundered from the main stage, as dozens of vendors and crafters sold items to those eager to support local businesses, and a number of people at an expo show sported their luxury cars. Meanwhile, kids rode ponies, dunked guys in the dunk tank and jumped in inflatable bouncy houses in the famed “Kids Zone.”
All of this was part of the 46th annual Essex Day Festival, perhaps the most well-attended event all year in the Essex community, and it was an absolute blast, according to several people who attended.
“It is a fun day and great opportunity for everyone in the community to get together,” said local resident Chris Johnson, who stayed for a few hours listening to the music and shopping at vendor booths. He was there with his mother-in-law, Barbara Bennett, who has attended nearly every Essex Day since the event was first established decades ago.
Bennett, along with other members of Church of the Harbor in Essex, stayed at the festival all day and helped set up and tear down the kids’ play area.
“It was a long day, but I was glad to help out,” Bennett said. “I got to see people that I had not seen for a while and made a lot of new contacts with people who live outside of the area.”
Another local resident, Carolyn Stacey, made her way through the festival for a couple of laps with her husband and daughter.
“I like seeing the community involvement and helping all of the local businesses,” she said. “Events like Essex Day build a stronger sense of community, and that is extremely important.”
Stacey said that she particularly enjoyed seeing the fire engines on site. The Essex volunteer fire department had carried on fire vehicles and equipment, and had several volunteers in attendance for the festival, all in an effort to support the Essex community, according to department secretary Rebecca Schield. The department was there to provide medical standby services, as well as to collect donations by asking attendees to help them fill a boot and selling raffle tickets.
“It was very enjoyable interacting with community members and leaders,” Schield said. “Everyone was so friendly and supportive of the firehouse, and we always appreciate the support from the community.”
The fire trucks were not the only vehicles catching people’s eyes, however. Scott Smith hosted a car show with 40 cars packing the parking lot.
“It seemed like everyone was enjoying themselves,” Smith said. “Everyone seemed to complete the path through the event to look at the cars, so we were happy to see that.”
At the car show, a “crowd favorite” was determined based on votes, as was a “top 20.” This year, the favorite was a Baltimore County fire truck.
One of the car show participants who made the top 20 was local resident Larry Albankis, featuring his silver 1980 Dodge Aspen with a black racing stripe. It is a rare car, he said, that he built himself with parts he had imported from Canada.
“I have broken my butt to get that car to where it is,” Albankis said. “It was nice to have people vote for me, and I really enjoyed the day.”
Albankis said that he is rebuilding and restoring a 1991 Dodge D150 to bring to next year’s Essex Day Festival, along with the Aspen, and that he plans to encourage more people to come to the show next year.
“As we reflect on another Essex Day,” festival board member Brian Marchetti said, “it comes to light how much the local community wants to work together and be together to improve the quality of life. Everyone seemed to have a fantastic time, and I could not be prouder of the board members I work with and what we have accomplished.”
He said that the board is already discussing the schedule and what changes need to be made for next year’s festival.
“It has only been a few days,” he said, “and we have spent hours talking about what we need to do to make 2022’s festival the best we have ever done.”