"What color do you want the tunnel to be tonight?" asked Michael Evitts, VP of communications for Downtown Partnership (DP). He's referring to the tunnel on St. Paul Street between Franklin and Pleasant street that, up until two years ago, looked like any ordinary drab piece of city infrastructure.
"Even on a sunny day, it was dark and shadowy under there, so we decided to make something fun happen," Evitts says about DP's decision to install neon, interchangeable lights.
Now the organization is taking it one step further by hosting Lit City in the tunnel on April 6, from 8-11 p.m., as a part of Light City Baltimore. The dance party—which is aiming to bring festival attendees beyond the Inner Harbor, show off the downtown culinary scene, and throw a fun tunnel party—is one of many ways that local organizations are expanding Light City's mission this year.
"Festival organizers really want the city to be lit up—metaphorically and literally," Evitts says. "We're hearing this this dance party is the poster child for what other groups can do to show we're all in this together."
A $40 ticket to Lit City gets guests access to an open bar with wine, cocktails, and local beer from The Brewer's Art, as well as tastings from five downtown restaurants. Selections include grilled street corn from Cava Meeze, duck confit rillete from The Elephant, pierogies from Cask & Grain, sliders from 8 Ball Meatball, and mini crab cake from Phillip's Seafood.
"We know that foot traffic during Light City generally stays around the Inner Harbor," says DP's marketing and communications manager Marissa Moss, who came up with the concept for the dance party. "So we wanted an easy way to people to enjoy the dynamic culinary scene of Baltimore's downtown neighborhoods under one roof. Plus, it was an excuse to make a tunnel party happen."
Of course, another big draw will be the music, provided by DJ Cory T, who is already getting inundated with requests for house music and B'more Club. Organizers say that this will show that nightclub dancing is alive and well in Baltimore.
"We're trying to bring a certain energy downtown that will hopefully continue well beyond Light City and last all year round," Moss says.
Adding to that nightlife energy is this year's Light City signature cocktail. Determined by a judge's panel earlier in the year, B&O American Brasserie's Eric Fooy won this honor for the second year in a row with his "Golden Hour" creation made with Sagamore Spirit Rye, Luxardo Maraschino, Angostura bitters, orange and lemon juice, and a cherry garnish.
"I wanted to create a cocktail that would be approachable to a mass audience while also introducing a unique ingredient—maraschino liqueur," Fooy says. "It's also a tribute to a really beautiful hour of the day, which is why I used orange with red hues."
The cocktail will be available at various stalls throughout the festival and participating bars around the city.
A number of local restaurants are also creating signature cocktails of their own. In particular, the Lord Baltimore Hotel will host a special happy hour throughout the festival featuring discounted appetizers and drinks served in light-up glasses including "The Orange" (moonshine, peach brandy, orange bitters, and maraschino cherries), "The Red" (white whiskey, watermelon juice, Aperol, and rosemary), and "The Green," which combines vodka, Chartreuse, lime juice, and soda.
In general, local organizations feel that the Light City festival, especially in its second year, is a great excuse for Baltimore to come together.
"We're really going to be all hands on deck that week," Evitts says. "Now that people know what the festival is about and have seen how cool it is, the interest is really growing."