This past Saturday was the ninth annual street fair. This is an event that I always look forward to, the opportunity to wander up and down Central Avenue, eat outside, enjoy the outdoor entertainment, browse the various displays, and check out what the stores have to offer.
This year I didn't have very high hopes for the event. The heavy rain on Friday, combined with the forecast for more of the same all day Saturday, had participants trying to figure out how they would manage in torrential rain. And when it was raining first thing Saturday morning, I really didn't think that anyone would bother going downtown, but would instead choose to keep dry at home. I admit that would have been my choice.
I was forced to go out though - Andrea is part of Morley Harrison's stock company for his historical vignettes, and she was committed to being part of this year's offering, "The Damned Dam", about the La Colle Falls Dam project. At their rehearsal the evening before, they had decided to perform inside the museum, to avoid any concerns about rain, so we headed there around 10:30. Since I had some time to pass before the 11 a.m. performance, I wandered up the street.
It wasn't raining at this point, and I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people on Central. Certainly not as many as would have been there had it been a sunny day, but far more than I expected to see. While the first block, where the Co-op used to be, was a dead zone, further up many of the stores had decided to participate, often putting up tents to shelter merchandise, there were plenty of food vendors, and Memorial Square, in front of City Hall, was full of kids and parents taking advantage of games and face-painting. The steps of City Hall were being used as a stage, an excellent opportunity for some young dancers to perform to an appreciative audience. I ran into so many people that wanted to talk that I was late getting back to the museum, and missed part of the play.
After Andrea changed out of her play attire, we wandered up and down, checking things out and chatting with people. Many people were carrying umbrellas, just in case, but it was obvious that a little rain wasn't going to stop them from enjoying the opportunity to do something different. I think that the street fair meets a need in the community - it's a place that people can bring their kids, and know that there will be things for them to do that don't cost anything. For adults, you're bound to run into people that you know, and catch up on things. It's a chance to slow down, see the downtown in a different light, and perhaps see some of its potential as a gathering place.
I think that there's still a lot that could be tried. If there was an Open Doors type of event, in which buildings like City Hall, the Forest Centre, and the downtown churches are open for tours, that would give people a place to duck into in the case of bad weather. Putting the historical play inside the museum turned out to have a couple of unexpected benefits - the performers were much more easily heard than is the case when they're outdoors, competing with music and conversation, and the museum had many people who came for the three performances of the play, but then stuck around to check out the displays. These kind of potential synergies need to be explored more fully.
The rain may have dampened things, and limited some of the usual events, but those who came out enjoyed themselves, had the chance to socialize, and maybe learned something new. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.
"Everybody needs some time to rejuvenate, refresh, recharge and begin again." - Ravathi Sankarun