Montgomery Street Fair

By on 25 April, 2012 in Art, City Living, Fun, Johnny Veres, Kate and Stephen with 3 Comments

They have been popping up like colorful flowers after a rain shower.

All around the Internet, people have been posting beautiful photos of Saturday’s downtown street fair, sponsored by Helicity.

It would be impossible to link here to all of the photo albums that people have been sharing, but (assuming you weren’t there) you can get a range of the event by looking around the local social media landscape. Want to see what you missed in the hot dog eating contest sponsored by Chris’ Hot Dogs? There’s a video here. Want to get a broader feel for the entire event? Check out this groovy video. You may have photos or videos of your own, or maybe a story to tell about running into a friend you haven’t seen in a while.

There are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of amateur photographers that have posted their photos of the jugglers, the break dancers, the Chinese dragon, the fire breather, the smiling children, the gymnasts and the musicians. The entire event, which ran from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. down at the Court Square fountain was a huge buffet of eye candy and visual stimulation. People were eating food, dancing, buying things from vendors, talking, enjoying the weather and wondering just who, exactly, was responsible for this thing.

We previewed the fair on this page at the end of March. Well, to be fair, we let the folks from Helicity make the pitch themselves. And going into the event, they had a couple of challenges facing them:

1) It seemed like it might rain. (It didn’t).

2) Nobody had ever heard of the street fair because the last time they launched such an initiative was 1899 and nobody was alive back then. That shindig lasted several days.

3) Nearly a million things were going on that day. Among them: the Alabama Book Festival, the Joy to Life anti-cancer walk, a Garden District tour of homes, the Old 280 Boogie in nearby Waverly, a Biscuits home game (on an ever-popular fireworks night) and an uncountable number of things that I’m probably forgetting. Let’s just say it was a full social calendar that day.

And despite those three major hurdles — and the fact that they’d never done it before (ensuring inevitable “learning on the job” moments), the fair went swimmingly. I went after the Book Festival and stayed from 4 p.m. until it closed. The crowd began to thin out once the sun went down, which was too bad for the musical headliners, a hip-hop group from Huntsville called G-Side. But G-side did a great job given the circumstances, as did all of the musicians and performers.

It’s a cliche to say that there was something for everyone, but this was a crowd pleasing event for people of all ages. There were inflatable items for children to pounce on, tasty food, music, a chance to poke around in the old Kress Building, and an overall sense that people were making an effort to inject some much-needed vibrancy into the still-too-boarded-up storefronts of the legendary Dexter Avenue.

Oh, and did we mention that it was “pay what you think this is worth” at the gate? Sure, most people seemed to be paying the bare minimum, a single dollar, but for the first time, people who have yet to enter the event might not have been sure what “this is worth.” But know they know. And it’s hard to put a dollar value on the civic glue that brings people together.

Johnny Veres from Helicity said the street fair was going to happen again next year, and it seems likely that many of the people who only paid a dollar this year will know next time that the event is worth a couple more bucks. And even if everyone only paid a dollar, the benefits of such an event will result in a boost to the bottom lines of the vendors and the members of the community that benefit from downtown re-development.

So many things have changed since the first Montgomery Street Fair. The society back then would be virtually unrecognizable and unfathomable to contemporary generations. But the core human experience of mingling in public with one’s neighbors remains unchanged. We all like to be entertained outdoors on a beautiful day. We continue to like oddities, athletics, daredevils, and musicians. And we continue to need inspired and passionate folks like the ones at Helicity to dream big about the kinds of events that bring out the best in our community.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a cat, a dog, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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There Are 3 Brilliant Comments

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  1. phootnotes says:

    thanks for the write-up! one of the better ones i’ve seen.

  2. Shane says:

    Just for kicks and giggles, I think I might think that somebody was alive in 1899. 🙂 Thanks for your articles, and this seemed like fun!

  3. Carolyn Wright says:

    Thanks for posting the link to my 1899 video on Youtube!

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