Eastown Street Fair: Like no other


Street art is prevalent in Eastown, especially during Street Fair. Photo by Brittany Beezhold

For the Eastown community, Street Fair is a time when local art, food and music strands mix together to form the eclectic fabric of the community. The annual event took place on Sept. 15 from 9 a.m.-10 p.m. along Wealthy St. and Lake Dr.

Eastown Business Association (EBA) and Eastown Community Association (ECA) committee members and volunteers gathered at 5:30 a.m. to prepare the streets for vendors and the expected crowds.

In between checking in vendors and directing vehicles between the white booths hugging the curbs on either side of the street, volunteers worked together to problem solve and transform Wealthy Street into a festival celebrating local artists, businesses, bands and organizations. The streets began to fill with crowds at 9 a.m.

Pamela Goderski, the EBA’s chair of the special events committee, is actively involved in coordinating the logistics of Street Fair. Goderski learned there must be a balance between organized structure and an unstructured atmosphere.

“The trick is, to the people coming to Street Fair, it must appear spontaneous yet there needs to be organization on the association’s side to make it possible,” she said.

Street Fair attracted crowds between 12,000 to 16,000 people. Because of collaborative efforts to improve the marketing of Street Fair through social media this year, attendance numbers rose from previous years.

Goderski said Street Fair is an event that energizes the community and gathers the larger Grand Rapids region into Eastown. Jaye Van Lenten, an EBA board member and Calvin alumni, is deeply involved with the EBA and is committed to the growth and livelihood of the community.

“Eastown Street Fair was a huge success. In its 39th year, it continues to get better,” said Van Lenten. “There were additional vendor booths in the Hub Parking Lot, the Food Court on Ethel SE continues to grow, and most important, people have fun and get a chance to enjoy the incredible community and spirit of Eastown.”

In addition to Street Fair, the EBA and ECA hope the excitement generated from Street Fair will raise awareness of the Eastown district and what it has to offer.

“After the event happens, [people are] reminded how much they love Eastown. I would love to think that that carries over after Street Fair and for more people to come into Eastown,” said Goderski.

Alice Keyes, a senior at Calvin and an Eastown resident, joined the excitement early Saturday afternoon. “It was great to see how the streets that I call home were filled with people ready to participate in the fair. It just shows that people do care about local vendors and musicians and Street Fair gives us the opportunity to show that.”

In addition to promoting the Street Fair itself, one of the goals of the EBA is to expose visitors to the businesses located within Eastown.

As stated on the EBA website, “[Eastown] is Grand Rapids’ hippest neighborhood, where the area’s character is reflected in an eclectic mix of specialty shops and galleries, restaurants, coffee houses, entertainment venues, and businesses that cater to the needs of area residents and visitors.”

“Eastown Street Fair is the major annual fundraiser for the Eastown Community and Business Associations and a collaborative effort through their joint Special Events Committee,” said Van Lentin. “The impact on Eastown is widespread and community building. It gives people the opportunity to experience Eastown’s business district and neighborhood so they know what a great place it is!”

With Street Fair over, the EBA looks forward to the celebration of its 40-year anniversary in November as well as Shop Hop in December. For more information about the EBA or other upcoming events, visit the EBA’s website at www.eastowngr.com.