Yellow Springs Street Fair is worth the trip
By Chelsea Davis
“It’s a just a day of small town hoopla,” Holly Simpson, the marketing and events coordinator for the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce, said.
Simpson originally caught wind of the Street Fair when she worked for Dino’s Cappuccinos on Xenia Avenue. Now, she is finishing up her eighth or ninth Street Fair with the Chamber of Commerce, and counts her experience with Dino’s as a helpful insight into the event.
“My work at Dino’s helped to show me the importance of the street fair to local business,” Simpson said. “Then, from a marketing point of view it’s really good to say, ‘Hey we’re here, we’re Yellow Springs.’”
While no one can pinpoint an exact date, the Yellow Spring Street Fair is believed to have begun in the ’70s as a simple sidewalk sale, and has now become a full-fledged operation, with it really coming into its own in the past four years.
“That’s the 10 million dollar question,” Simpson said. “It started sometime in the ’70s as a sidewalk fair or sale, but nobody has been able to give me an exact date. It’s like trying to name [the street fair] attendance. I just don’t know.”
The Street Fair as it’s now known was designed as a way for local merchants to market their stores and products, while giving patrons a fun and relaxed environment to enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of Yellow Springs.
These days, the street fair is home to a myriad of vendors, both of the Yellow Springs variety and out-of-towners.
“We have, I would say, maybe a 60-40 split,” Simpson said. “Sixty percent are Yellow Springs merchants and the rest are from out of town.”
Most of these out-of-town merchants still hail from the tri-state area. However, due to the overwhelming success in the past few years, Simpson said people are coming from all over.
“We have a couple of Chicago vendors, also Indiana, Pennsylvania and one from Georgia this year,” Simpson said. “We can continue to bring back old favorites but also continue to bring in new people.”
For a small town whose biggest claim to fame is being the residence of comedian Dave Chappelle, Yellow Springs has built a strong reputation for quality, diverse products, and the number of merchant applications has far exceeded expectations and the YS Street Fair team has had to be much more selective. “You kind of have to be handmade,” Simpson said. “We try to stay pretty eclectic. We have all different kinds of art, from painting to ceramics and jewelry, and a guy who cuts up license plates to make signs.”
In order to accommodate the growing numbers, Simpson and her team expanded the street fair footprint and made efforts to “de-crowd” areas.
“Now [the street fair] has a much larger footprint,” Simpson said. “We take over Xenia Avenue, Short Street, Walnut [Street] and Corry [Street], and last fall we finally added Dayton [Avenue]. We tried to make it a cohesive footprint … so on Dayton we have the music festival and biergarten.”
The Yellow Springs Street Fair not only attracts merchants, but food vendors and non-profit organizations. According to Simpson, 75 percent of Yellow Springs’ non-profits participate in the street fair.
“Of course this is great for our merchants, but it’s a great venue for non-profits, both in Yellow Springs and outside of Yellow Springs,” Simpson said. “It’s a great place for non-profits to get out and talk about their platform and engage with the community.”
Just like with her vendors, Simpson is picky when it comes to the food showcased at the Street Fair. This year the fair will have between 35 and 40 food vendors.
“I’m always looking for something different,” Simpson said. “We do a lot of international: Indian, Asian, Argentinian and Greek. All kinds of stuff … then all of the other things you’d expect to see at a festival: ice cream, French fries, that kind of stuff.”
The fair will also feature some local food trucks, including Voodoo Taco, a food truck that’s been around since late 2013, and Ohio Farm Direct, which receives its supply directly from their farm.
In addition to the street fair, there are also the various musical acts and a biergarten on Dayton Avenue. There are two stages that have bands throughout the day from 12 p.m. until 7 p.m. Also, there will be buskers and belly dancers walking around the street performing.
“The other focus is on music and entertainment,” Simpson said. “There’s a south end acoustic stage, and we have a belly dancing troupe. We’ll also have the Yellow Springs Brewery in the biergarten, as well as other craft beers throughout.”
A few added features to this year’s fair is the new free bike valet service, provided by Bike Miami Valley, a Dayton non-profit organization advocating for safe bicycling in the Miami Valley, as well as the shuttle service.
“We’re always trying to improve traffic and how to get here,” Simpson said. “We’ve added buses and Bike Miami Valley will do a free bike valet. They’ll be there talking about their cause and there will be things for sale. It’s totally in line with what Yellow Springs is about, and we’re on the bike path.”
The shuttle service will run from Yellow Springs High School to the fair. The bike valet is free, provided you have a valid ID.
There are many interesting and new things to see at this year’s Street Fair, including a Dayton woman who produces a cosmic-themed line called “Comet Vomit.” She makes her nail polishes, makeup, jewelry and accessories. Simpson mentioned she’s been following this vendor and is excited to have her.
“It’s cool to see her come and pull this brand together,” Simpson said. “I love watching that. When your job is to look at vendors all the time, it’s awesome when a vendor really catches your eye and she’s from Dayton.”
Yellow Springs Street Fair is Saturday, June 14 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Xenia Avenue, Short Street, Walnut Street, and Corry Street. Music, entertainment and the biergarten are on Dayton Street from noon to 7 p.m. For more information on the Yellow Springs Street Fair, please visit yellowspringsohio.org.
Reach DCP freelance writer Chelsea Davis at ChelseaDavis @DaytonCityPaper.com.