The village people

Street Fair celebrates Yellow Springs

By Gary Spencer

As the adage goes, nothing is certain in life except for death and taxes. But there are perhaps a handful of things that are almost as sure of a thing, and ones that are much more positive than dying and forcefully giving your money to the government. One of those is the decades-old, tried and true Yellow Springs Street Fair, the self-proclaimed “Everyone’s Favorite Festival” that floods the streets of downtown Yellow Springs with live music, street performers, arts and crafts vendors and international cuisine trucks all among the charming village splendor Yellow Springs has to offer. While the festival regularly draws thousands of attendees every June, its origins were much more modest. “Street Fair began in the early ’70s as a sidewalk sale by local merchants,” says Karen Wintrow, executive director of the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce. “It has changed incredibly over the years. It grew larger and spilled into the streets after a few years and then became a more organized effort headed by the Chamber. In 2008, we moved the music festival to the Bryan Center, expanded the time until 7 p.m. and added beer sales. At the same time, we created an entire street of food vendors on Walnut Street and we added a small music stage and food tent adjacent to the food vendors. We also added a free shuttle service in 2008.”

According to Yellow Springs Street Fair Coordinator Alexandra Scott, the street fair’s growing popularity with both potential vendors and visitors over the years is attributable to a number of factors that are perhaps singularly identifiable with the scenics of Yellow Springs itself.

“To me, it’s the ‘vibe,’” she says. “Yellow Springs is a unique place where it is often much easier for people to feel accepted and welcomed. All of the vendors are selling unique items, almost always handmade. The streets are filled with buskers and hoopers and all sorts of performers, there are two stages of live, original music. There’s delicious craft beer and an eclectic selection of delicious food. I’ve been coming to Street Fair for as long as I can remember—probably [from the time] I was still in a stroller. People just have fun here, even the vendors and volunteers. It’s always a good time that keeps people coming back.”

As you can imagine, a large multi-street festival like the Yellow Springs Street Fair with dozens of vendors and performers as well as thousands of attendees requires quite a bit of planning and foresight, and the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce is always thinking ahead on how to make such an undertaking run smoothly.

“One of the things that is sometimes a challenge is figuring out how to get information to people the day of the festival,” Scott says. “We used to print paper programs but these weren’t being used very much. We want to move towards having more of an ‘eco-friendly’ festival, so this year we have created an app for Yellow Springs. It has information about the town, a lot of the same stuff you can find when searching our website, as well as a ‘Street Fair’ tab with all of the festival info you could need including maps, music schedules, and more. We plan to be printing smaller and fewer paper maps for those that still need them.”

The revenue generated from the festival is important, not just to vendors but to the growth and survival of local businesses and the city of Yellow Springs itself.

“The revenue from Street Fairs allow them to get through the lean winter months when business slows down after the holidays,” Wintrow says. “In addition to an important revenue generator for our businesses, it provides the primary source of income for many nonprofits in excess of $15,000 annually. We have had vendors open a brick and mortar location in Yellow Springs [thanks to the income generated from the Festival].”

But ultimately, the Yellow Springs Street Fair isn’t all about dollars and cents. In the end, the the festival is all about having a good time soaking up the sun on the streets of the village and taking in the flavor that makes the town of Yellow Springs one of a kind.

“My idea of Yellow Springs is that it’s always been a place where you can be yourself and have fun,” Scott says. “Street Fair is a magnification of that quality of Yellow Springs. On a normal day when the weather is good, you might see a few buskers, a drum circle, someone spinning hoops or spinning fire at night—during Street Fair you tend to see a lot of that. Not to mention the people dressed in all their colors and patterns and the two stages of music that tend to showcase local bands that have connections to or roots in Yellow Springs. It’s kind of Yellow Springs’ time to shine, if you will.”

The Yellow Springs Street Fair takes place this coming Saturday, June 11 in downtown Yellow Springs from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and is  free to the public. For more information, please call 937.767.2686 or visit yellowspringsohio.org.

Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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