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"Getting to know Grand Rapids is easy because of the events and gatherings that are made available which exemplify the vibe of the city," says recent Grand Rapids transplant and Eastown resident Allene Smith. Smith was one of many enjoying beautiful September weather at the Eastown Street Fair recently.
Although the Eastown Street Fair is only one day a year, the volunteer organizers manage to fill a relatively small area with a lot of activity and engagement. With this being the 39th year of art, food, music and the celebration of all things local, the street fair organizers clearly have learned how to pack big fun into a relatively small amount of space.
Wealthy Street was closed from Lake Drive to Atlas and contained the majority of the artisan and organizational vendors while Ethel south of Wealthy was host to the food merchants. Also included were the public parking lot next to the Yesterdog building and the Ethel lot behind Eastown Deli, but the heart of the festival was on Wealthy Street.
True to the "vibe of the city" that Smith has already learned about, the crowds came out to show their appreciation of the local art and music scenes as well as the Grand Rapids weather. The streets were busy during the afternoon hours and the vendor booths seemed to be benefiting from the large number of people crowding the streets.
People gathered to hear top notch entertainment from the large stage at Lake Drive and Wealthy. Local groups such as Potato Moon, The Donald Kinsey Band, Jes Kramer and The Potatoe Babies performed throughout the day and all were well received by the crowd. The sound was full and bold coming out of the large speakers on the front of the stage and people were dancing in the streets. With this being a perfect event for families, many parents were listening from the bleachers while watching their kids play with rolls and rolls of toilet paper courtesy of Reverend Charles Preston Smith of the Potatoe Babies. There was quite a substantial amount of toilet paper thrown around and to his credit, the Rev made sure it was cleaned up.
The food vendors included The Winchester's 'What the Truck' and 'The Silver Spork' food truck. Both offered local fair and featured both vegetarian and meat options. Connie's Cakes had a booth and sold cupcakes and cream cheese brownies.
The revered Sandmann's BBQ, which had closed its doors this summer after a dozen years of business, was serving up the food that made them famous. The air was filled with the scents and smoke that come along with years of refining a recipe and process, and the barbeque lovers in attendance flocked to the booth to get a plate of Sandmann's authentic cuisine.
The diversity of the vendors' wares made it easy for all artistic tastes to find something to their liking. Paintings, hand-drawn sketches, jewelry and clothing seemed to be the most popular, but there were a few local organizations that were also seeking support. The Ban Fracking Now group was drawing people in and using the opportunity to inform people of their beliefs of the dangers of fracking.
Carol's Ferals had their usual set up and were able to draw attention to their cause by putting humans in cages and requesting donations to "free" the caged one.
Reb Roberts of Sanctuary Folk Art had his usual space at Wealthy and Ethel, right across the way from WYCE's booth. WYCE has had a presence at the Eastown Street Fair for many years and were selling donated records, tapes and CDs to raise money in order to stay on the air.
According to Linda Gellasch of the Community Media Center, the "deals were flying off the shelves in the first hour." Towards the end of the day the selection was a bit thin, but anytime you can get three items for a dollar, it's no surprise that people get there early.
The Ethel parking lot hosted Raise for Raze, a dance-off sponsored by local troupe 61syx Teknique. The dance troupe held a "battle dance" style that drew contenders from all parts of the state and helped raise money and awareness for their cause. The crowds seemed to really be getting into the competition and there were some very talented participants of all ages.
Beautiful weather, fantastic preparation by the organizers and the high quality of music and vendors made for an enjoyable time for all in the community. The crowd was very diverse in all aspects and it was wonderful to watch people see each other from across the street and come together in the middle.
Isn't that what we are all hoping for anyway?
Cheers to the Eastown Street Fair. May there be many more decades of exploration, sharing and celebrating local.
Let's collectively figure some stuff out. We can help each other and further our dreams together. Life is not a race nor a fight; we are all it in together, as one. What drives you? What keeps you alive? Are there things you know that others must hear about? Tell me how you stay alive and why you continue on from day to day. What gets you out of bed? What keeps you in bed sometimes? Are you happy? Sad? In love? We all have stories. Some of us just need a voice.
Reports on: Life. Sharing. Hope. Fulfilling dreams.