By Morgan Pilz, Staff Writer
(June 22, 2018) Live music, pictures with costumed characters, vendors, food and games for adults and children will take place during the second annual Believe in Tomorrow Block Party, which will be held in conjunction with the 29th annual Bathtub Races, this Saturday on the streets of Berlin.
“I truly believe it’s a day you can go out and have fun [without] costing a fortune and do it as a family,” said Wayne Littleton, coordinator for the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Respite Housing Program.
There is no fee to participate in the Block Party, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Littleton said he wanted to make the festivities affordable to everyone.
“I told everyone up front, that I want every child to be able to participate,” he said. “Twenty dollars to me might be different from $20 to a family that has three or four kids. We have free activities and we have some games that cost 25 cents to play.”
Last year, Littleton was inspired to create the family friendly party after participating in a guest bartending event at Sisters on Main Street in Berlin.
“The more I thought about it, I thought, ‘Well, I can get other people in the community to bartend and bring different people and we can make it a nice fundraiser,’” Littleton said. “So we kept talking about things, and something was said about, ‘maybe we could put something out on the street to raise money,’ and the block party just came to me.”
Attendees can enjoy live music and street performers, carnival games and a number of children’s activities including face painting, balloon animals, raffles, a bounce house by Sunrise Church, free photos with costumed guests like Captain America and Mickey Mouse, and performances by Cascading Carlos. A free petting zoo provided by State’s Attorney candidate Bill McDermont will also be available.
“I call it my little hodge-podge of everything,” Littleton said. “I might even add something the day before. I just want the whole town packed. I want it loud and I want it chaotic. More chaotic, more fun.”
Local band Blind Wind will play from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Rothschild Broadcasting, 94.9 WAMS-FM and K107.7 WKHI of the Adams Group will broadcast live during the event.
The Snowball Stand of Ocean Pines and Sobos Catering from Salisbury will be parked on the street selling treats. Food trucks will also be on hand.
Businesses are also encouraged to donate a portion of their proceeds to Believe in Tomorrow. Burley Oak and the Island Creamery plan to team up and make root beer floats, donating 100 percent of the proceeds to the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Foundation.
“I want to thank all of the local businesses for their support,” Littleton said. “Everybody’s just so generous in the Town of Berlin. Every cent we make that day will help us continue what we do.”
The inaugural Believe in Tomorrow Block Party took place last year in August.
“I approached by Ivy Wells from [the Town of Berlin Economic and Community Development director] and she thought it was a great idea and it just blossomed from there,” Littleton said. “Five hundred people walked through that day. Once it was over, a couple people from the chamber approached me a few days later [while] picking up everything and they said, ‘Would you think about moving it to June?’ So, we thought we would try to give it a chance and see how it goes.”
The Berlin Chamber wanted to incorporate the annual Bathtub Race into the event this year and proposed a day-long festival.
The Bathtub Races began 29 years ago, when the late Jesse Turner, owner of the Berlin Shoebox, started the event as a friendly rivalry between the Berlin businesses.
“We used to do it on Friday night, and it’s grown so big that we wanted to make it a whole day event,” Berlin Chamber Administrator Larnet St. Amant said. “Last year we had the idea to make it on a Saturday, and then we also decided to partner with Believe in Tomorrow and have them do the day event, so people can come.
“What was happening is we were doing the event, and we were getting people there and everyone’s hyped up, but then it’s over,” she continued. “It’s a two hour, two-and-a-half-hour event, and people wanted more. So, this way we’ll have a whole day of fun, and then we’ll have the races. You get a whole day in Berlin.”
The Bathtub Races is a fun, competitive way for local businesses to advertise. Competitors build a bathtub and race down the street from 5-8 p.m. for the “Winner Takes All” trophy and year-long bragging rights. The first-place winner will also receive a free banner ad on the Chamber’s Website (a $400 value).
“Over 15 [racers] registered for the event this year, which is going to be a huge event,” St. Amant said. “Typically, we get anywhere between 10-13. It’s going to be the biggest it’s ever been.”
The racers and their bathtubs typically represent the businesses they work for. The bathtubs can be decorated to advertise their company, and the racers often dress in festive attire.
“Bath Fitters is [ironically,] the only one using an actual bathtub and it’s obviously slow,” St. Amant said. “But some people use anything from fiberglass and someone else has used an old barrel. Some of them have really gotten quite … aerodynamic. People are building them. It used to be as crazy as a big galvanized bucket with bicycle wheels.”
H.T. Harrison & Sons Inc. took home the trophy in 2017 by narrowly edging out Costa Ventosa Winery and Brewery in the final race. Both will be returning to compete this year.
The Bathtub Parade will start at 4:30 p.m. All the racers will gather at 14th South Main Street and will proceed through the crowd with their bathtubs.
“Where else are you going to see bathtubs racing down the road,” St. Amant said. “Just watching the kids’ faces … it’s a small town, great vibe. I don’t think anyone has left there and not been fully entertained, because you will definitely be entertained.”
Registration for the 2018 Bathtub Races is closed, however, people interested in the competition can sign up for next year’s event.
“We’re going to enter it for the first time,” Littleton said. “It will be very interesting.”
Fundraisers such as the Berlin Block Party help raise money to provide essential week-long excursions for critically ill children and their families through Believe in Tomorrow.
Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Foundation provides hospital and respite housing services to critically ill children and their families. Since 1982, Believe in Tomorrow has provided over 900,000 individual overnight accommodations, from every state in the U.S. and more than 82 countries worldwide.
The Believe in Tomorrow facility on 66th Street in Ocean City is open year-round to provide a free getaway to the beach for critically ill children and their families whenever they may need to escape the stresses of their child’s illness.
Each of the four condos feature kid-friendly décor and paintings with at least two bedrooms, a full bathroom, a fully-stocked kitchen, living and dining room areas.
Families can also vacation at the Believe in Tomorrow House in Fenwick Island and House by the Bay on 28th Street.
In addition to the six lots of free public parking in Berlin, attendees can also park at Stephen Decatur Park off Route 113 for Saturday’s activities.
Learn more about Believe in Tomorrow at http://believeintomorrow.org or call Littleton at 410-723-2842 for additional information on the Berlin Block Party. For information on the Bathtub Races, call the Berlin Chamber Office at 410-641-4775.