Vendors, performers, community members enjoy a beautiful day at Bowiefest


Onlookers watch young dancers perform during Bowiefest June 1, 2024, at Allen Pond Park in Bowie, Maryland. Tori Newby/The Bowie Sun

BOWIE, Md. - More than 1,000 people gathered for the 47th annual Bowiefest, a day at the park filled with music, street food, local artists and even a visit from Maryland Gov. Wes Moore.

Eighty-degree weather and sunshine greeted attendees at the daylong festival, which ran from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Allen Pond Park. 

Matt Corley, Bowie’s special event manager, estimated that 1,500 to 1,800 people attended Bowiefest this year.

“We had a variety of music, we tried to cater to all of our citizens, so we had a little bit of everything out there,” he said.

A Bowie tradition, the event often draws politicians and candidates as well as families and friends looking for kids activities, a bite to eat, a live performance or just a leisurely stroll around Allen Pond. Indoors at the Bowie Ice Arena, the Greater Bowie Chamber of Commerce hosted its Bowiefest Business and Health Expo.

Corley oversees the vendors, entertainment and transportation, and works to make the day go smoothly for all participants. He rose early to make it all happen. 

Morning of, Corley was awake at 5:30 a.m. to set out the signs for the shuttle buses. At 8 a.m., the vendors started setting up. By 10:30 a.m., all vehicles were cleared from the area. Corley went to each stage to make sure the entertainment was ready, and by 11 a.m. the attendees started rolling in. 

Here's a recap of the day's festivities.

Corley estimated that over 200 vendors set up shop at Bowiefest, selling everything from children’s art to Himalayan clothing to psychic readings.

Ruth Feltman and her daughter Georgia Girten brought their sixteen flavors of homemade jam to Bowiefest, proudly displaying all the relishes, jams and honey that Gram’s Jams has to offer. They have been in business for three years after turning Feltman’s household hobby into a business during the pandemic, and this was their second year selling their jams at Bowiefest.

Children’s book author Nan Carlton sported a rubber duck-patterned polo to promote her new book, Huck, Chuck & Bruce: At the Shore. Carlton, who started writing and illustrating children’s books at age 63, took a spin on the game Duck, Duck, Goose in her book about the adventures of two ducks and a goose.

She traveled from her home in Virginia for her first-ever Bowiefest, and fittingly her booth overlooked Allen Pond where flocks of ducks and geese were basking in the summer weather.

A few booths down, seventh-generation psychic Tiffany Frank offered tarot card readings, palm readings, astrology and other services, hoping to provide clarity and guidance to customers. Frank said she and other members of the family business were born gifted psychics, and at 9 years old she started practicing.

“We love to attend all events in Bowie,” she said. “It’s a nice day outside, we love to spread our gift and help some people.”

Local organizations and agencies also set up information tables during Bowiefest to connect directly with the public.

Citizen’s Police Academy service members from the Bowie Police Department set up their booth to recruit and share information. Sergeant John McMaster said the festival was a chance to interact with the community, and he connected with local organizations throughout the day that were interested in partnerships.

“It’s been a productive day. Busy, but it’s been a very rich and fun day,” McMaster said.

A vendor sells artwork and T-shirts during Bowiefest 2024. Tori Newby/The Bowie Sun

Across two stages, local performers took the spotlight one after another, from jazz musicians to hip-hop rappers to youth dance groups.

Young dancers across three age groups from INSPIRE Dance performed a range of styles for Bowiefest attendees, from hip-hop to contemporary to acrobatics. The dancers had rehearsals several times per week leading up to the performance.

“Events like this give us more time to prep for competition, and to spend more quality time with each other as a dancer on a different level besides in the studio,” said Zakirah Manley, who is 15 years old. “And, I really enjoyed working with these group of girls because they bring out a different self that I didn't have before, and they make me more of a role model.”

Live performances in the park were held throughout the day at Bowiefest 2024. Tori Newby/The Bowie Sun
Young dancers perform on stage at Bowiefest on June 1, 2024 at Allen Pond Park in Bowie, Maryland. Tori Newby/The Bowie Sun

First-year attendee Jamelle Rone brought her two daughters to Bowiefest, where they enjoyed chicken tenders, hot dogs and flavored lemonades. The girls played on the playground and had plans to get rainbow unicorn face paint.

“We know a couple of vendors here, they asked us to come out, and I'm glad they did because I really like this,” Rone said.

Tori Newby is a Maryland native who previously covered community news for The Daily Tar Heel in North Carolina and wrote about tech startups in the Triangle area for GrepBeat.

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