The Street Fair

Public Address

1. I checked into my hotel on Sunday and walked out immediately to head to the the World Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science. As I turned onto 8th Avenue, there was something not so common in my experience of New York – no cars.

At first it was exhilarating. Sunshine. People. No traffic. A kind of marketplace. What was not to like? I decided to walk down to Times Square to catch the 7 out to Queens.

2. As I walked down the Avenue, I noticed what seemed to be an inordinate number of stands selling “murano-style” glass for $3. There didn’t seem to be any clear difference between the stalls.

3. There were also pashminas and scarves being sold at nearly indistinguishable booths.

4. This booth was no candy ass copy, almost worthy of the State Fair

5. t was good to see The Times reaching out to its neighbors with a robust absence.

6. The LED T-shirts were hard to pass up.

7. But it was the repetition that stood out more than the “unique.” I did some very minimal research, and it appears that this “fall festival” is organized by a street fair organization, Mardi Gras Festival Productions,which, presumably arranges street closure permits with the city and sells space to vendors.

8. Nothing wrong with producing a commercial street festival. The street is still closed. The traffic absent. But it’s not the 85th Feast of San Gennaro, which also, of course, sells space to vendors, where I witnessed the pizza pie making contest a couple of days later.

9. Nor was the Eighth Avenue “Fall Festival” the Bust Magazine Craftacular at the World Maker Faire, which sold “not your mother’s crochet” and other artisan gewgaws that you can’t live without.

10. My point is not to run down the Eighth Avenue Fall Festival per se. It’s unexceptionally true that not all street festivals are created equal. It’s less obvious how to “give back the streets” without still withholding their control. The commercial market stunningly set on 8th Avenue, the fun artisan market with a $28 entrance fee to Maker Faire, and the authentic community festival, also on the streets, are three options.

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