Tiny Town Takes to the Streets

The lively crowd at a Yellow Springs Street Fair last year. The lively crowd at a Yellow Springs Street Fair last year.

Four blocks of food, fun and arts

By Lara Donnelly

The lively crowd at a Yellow Springs Street Fair last year.

It’s getting to be that time of year again in Yellow Springs: the weather is heating up, the sun is coming out and the annual Yellow Springs Street Fair is coming down the pike at precipitous speed. Already, local vendors are stocking up on popular items. Visitors from out of town are inquiring about the date. Anxious gardeners are putting up signs begging fair attendees to please be careful of their hosta.

If you’ve never been to Street Fair, you may be wondering what all this fuss is about. A town of 4,000 couldn’t possibly cook up something so grand.
Come June 11, though, that population swells with people seeking music, entertainment, shopping, food and an all-around good time. The streets close, but the traffic doesn’t stop – while there won’t be any cars on Xenia Avenue (or on Short Street, or parts of Walnut and Corry Streets, for that matter), there will still be a steady flow of foot traffic from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Local wisdom says morning is the best time to hit up the vendors. The streets are still relatively quiet, the heat isn’t stifling and you’ll get your pick of the food, footpath and merchandise.

Of course, if you want to see the belly dancers, you’ll have to hang around.

Egyptian Breeze, a troupe of 12 dancers and their students, will perform two 40-minute sets during the day. The dancers have always been a big draw and according to troupe director Janet Mueller, aka Janna, Egyptian Breeze loves performing at Street Fair as much as their audience loves watching them.
“It’s one of our favorite shows,” she said. “We have a really warm audience there and they’re always very receptive. It’s a great location.”

Egyptian Breeze performs American-style cabaret belly dance, replete with sparkles, bangles and lots of shimmying hips.

“It’s a style that incorporates things from many cultures,” said Janna. “We do some fast numbers and some slow numbers. We coordinate it so that we kind of take turns.”

The dancers will be out no matter the weather, as long as it’s not raining cats and dogs. “Sound equipment and drums don’t take well to rain,” Janna pointed out. “We’ve danced in the cold; that’s not an issue. We just wear our warmer costumes. Usually, it’s more just remembering to have enough sunscreen.”

Wise advice for any Street Fair guest. There are some shady places to perch, but they’re usually at a premium. The gamut of food vendors on Walnut Street back their carts up to the cool, grassy expanse of the Mills Lawn Elementary playground, which pretty soon fills up with a lounging luncheon crowd.
The scents that waft on the breeze are enough to make a hardened gourmand salivate.

“Our food vendors are … one of a kind,” said Holly Simpson, the marketing and events coordinator for the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce. She said the offerings on Walnut Street will “range from Puerto Rican to Lebanese to Greek to Indian and everything in between.”

Word on the street is that the shish kabobs are not to be missed.

Once your hunger is sated, Simpson said that there’s a huge range of unique merchandise and services available at Street Fair, from henna tattooists to upcycling crafters.

“We search for vendors who put an interesting spin on their craft,” said Simpson. “In June we will welcome a vendor who makes her jewelry from nuts and seeds, as well as one who incorporates natural elements, such as reclaimed butterfly wings, into her designs.”
Street Fair didn’t start out so varied or nearly so big, said Simpson. But the Chamber has worked hard to grow the local sidewalk sale of 35 years ago into a regional attraction of impressive scale.

“We are always looking for ways to expand Street Fair and try to keep it fresh and new each time we put one on,” Simpson said. “A few years back we added the music festival and beer garden where people can relax and enjoy some excellent microbrews while listening to music.”
Since then, the beer garden – organized by Christine Beard of Peach’s Grill – has become a popular hang out spot for sundazzled fairgoers, weary of foot. Cold beer and great music lure many to the stage near the Bryan Center, just off Route 68.
In the time it takes to knock back a couple of pints, you’ll probably realize that this tiny town of 4,000 can certainly throw a knockout party.

Street Fair is Saturday, June 11 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Limited pay parking is available in town. A free shuttle service will run from Yellow Springs High School to the Bryan Center and beer garden. More information, as well as directions and a map of parking locations, is available at the Chamber of Commerce website: www.yellowspringsohio.org.

Reach DCP freelance writer Lara Donnelly at laradonnelly@daytoncitypaper.com.

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