Beehives, big hair and boas are all hallmarks of Baltimore’s annual celebration, HONfest. Founded in 1994, HONfest recognizes the working women who helped make Baltimore what it is today. Short for “Honey,” Hon is a classic Bawlmer term of endearment. It all started years ago behind Café Hon, where a tiny Best Hon pageant started a trend that would last for decades. Now more than 35,000 attendees flock to the Hamden neighborhood to dance, dress up and compete for the title of Baltimore’s Best Hon!

Facts about HONfest

  • HONfest was originally part of the Baltimore Hampden Summer Fair, a single day event held each year on 36th Street
  • Annexed by the city of Baltimore in 1889, the Hampden neighborhood was originally only residential. It was home to the many workers employed by the various industrial sawmills in the area.
  • Originally very blue-collar, the first Hampden residents came from the hill country – Kentucky, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Now it’s home to folks from all over the world
  • In the early 1990s the Hampden neighborhood experienced a revitalization fueled by artists and creatives that flooded the area, setting the perfect conditions for a festival to blossom
  • Hampden is also now home to the Mill Centre, a co-working, artistic and community office space surrounded by trendy boutiques, restaurants, beer and wine bars and other specialty storefronts.
  • The first “Best Hon” contest only had six participants, now they boast up to 26 ladies competing for the prestigious title
  • HONfest became an official Baltimore festival in 2003 and gained popularity after being featured in “Southern Living Magazine”
  • In addition to costume contests, the festival also showcases local artisans, talented musicians and dozens of Baltimore food vendors
  • One of the duties of the winner of the Best Hon Contest, is to be an honored guest and ride in the annual Baltimore Mayor’s Christmas Parade.
  • Participants of the Best Hon Contest are judged on style, creativity and hair! The Baltimore motto “The higher the hair, the closer to God,” still rings true for this pageant.

This year, in efforts to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, HONfest has gone virtual. Organizers are compiling photos and videos of years past via the @HONfestBaltimore festival Facebook page to commemorate the event. While the entertainment might be on hold until next year, you can still join by fun via social media. Don your best costume, tag your friends and #CelebrateBaltimore with #StayHomeHon.