Arabber ay-rab-ber n. horse cart vendor who sells fruit and vegetables from wagon by calling through the street; colloquial, Baltimore Maryland.
In May 1997, at the Sowebo Arts Festival in Southwest Baltimore, Scott and Joy Kecken introduced themselves to Benjamin "Winfield" Meekins and Steve Blake, Vice President and President of the Arabber Preservation Society. The filmmakers had always wanted to do a documentary on the horse-and-wagon produce vendors and Winfield and Steve were able and willing to introduce them to the world of the Arabbers.
Dozens of grant applications were sent out and in November 1997, the Maryland Humanities Council granted the project its first grant. In the meantime, Scott spent time with the elders at the Carlton Street stable, mucking stalls and building a rapport. Joy went out Arabbing with Kevin "Pop" Baker walking many miles through West Baltimore.
Production started in April 1998 with the extensive interviews of a core group of Arabbers including Walter "Teeth" Kelly, George "Blue" Kellum, Donald "Man Boy" Savoy and Donald "China" Waugh. Later that year and again in 1999, the Maryland State Arts Council granted additional funding to the project. Further production took place from 1998 until 2000 taking the camera and crew to two of the last remaining stables in Baltimore, the Smithsonian Folklife festival in Washington D.C., and the New Holland Pennsylvania horse auction, recording over 70 hours of digital video.
Editing began shortly afterwards. The slow and tedious process took years to complete. Many changes had taken place in everyone's life. Four participating Arabbers had passed on, a new Arab Center was purchased. Scott and Joy got married and had their first child. But finally in 2004, the project neared completion and a premiere date was set. Along with the documentary, the filmmakers decided to help produce an exhibit that captured the world of Arabbers through photographs, visionary art and artifacts. We hope the Arabbers continue to sell their produce on the streets of Baltimore and in some small way this project helps to strengthen this unique tradition.