A street fair is a gathering of spectators and entertainers, buyers and sellers that extols the character of a neighborhood. It is usually held on the main street of a neighborhood. Street fairs consists of vendors’ booths, food stalls, stages for entertainers and street front displays by the businesses that happen to be situated on street fair frontage. There are often carnival rides, parades and free-floating entertainers who blend in with the crowd.
Some street fairs are only a few blocks long, but others, like Tacoma’s Art on the Ave, can sprawl for blocks. A fair only one block long is commonly called a block party.
Tacoma’s Art on the Ave is billed as Pierce County’s biggest street fair. It unfurls itself like a magnificent serpent for a span of 10 full blocks along Tacoma’s bustling and heartful Sixth Avenue, running between Alder and State Streets. In the two decades of its existence, Art on the Ave has become known for its focus on the visual arts and good music.
Sixth Ave is one of Tacoma’s more interesting streets, running from downtown in the east to Titlow beach on the Tacoma Narrows in the west. It is one of the major lifelines of our City of Destiny, populated by all manner of shops, offices, restaurants, bars and tattoo parlors. Its middle portion, which plays host to Art on the Ave, is a hustling, bustling place with plenty of foot traffic.
This year marks the 20th edition of Art on the Ave. It takes place Sunday, July 8, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. With more than 150 artisans and vendors registered, you will more than likely go home with cherished treasures. The vendor list is an impressive mix of arts groups, photographers, jewelry makers, purveyors of cosmetics, glass blowers, tailors, face painters, sellers of hippie attire, printmakers, creamers, fortune tellers, potters, farmers, soap makers, frame smiths, wood crafters and many other types of artisans and cottage industrialists. Additionally, there will be a number of artists who will be creating live works during the event.
Food and drink options are a major components of Art on the Ave too. If you desire to enjoy a meal or a drink while exploring the festival there are a ton of options at hand.
Food trucks and tents will provide for quick and accessible food; or if you’re looking to get off your feet and into one of the popular restaurants along Sixth Ave, there are plenty to choose from. You can also dip your bill in one of several beer and beverage gardens from many of the bars and pubs that line the thoroughfare, in addition to the establishments themselves.
Enjoy ice cream, egg rolls, grilled cheeses, Italian ices, pizza, sweets and treats. The Asado restaurant, Bluebeard Coffee Roasters, the Crown Bar, Dirty Oscar’s Annex, Engine House No. 9, Gateway to India, Legendary Donuts and The Red Hot beer hall are but a few of the eating and drinking establishments that will be open for business during the festival.
With three stages and more than 20 acts throughout the day, you’re sure to find a band to strike your sonic sensibility. Booboolala, for example, is a band that goes down well with everything. They play a mix of pop infused party funk, back pack rap, and new R&B anthems.
Smokey Brights are a rock and roll band fronted by husband and wife songwriting duo Ryan Devlin and Kim West. Though eclectic, the music tends toward the anthemic rock sounds of the 1970’s.
The Black Tones, who play garage rock and blues punk, are like a mixture of Kurt Cobain and cornbread. The group consists of twin sibling founders Eva Walker on guitar/vocals, Cedric Walker on drums and Robby Little on the bass.
Manson’s Girls will deliver some heavy metal while Pink Parts and Blood Drugs will hammer out some punk. The latter call themselves “too poor for New York and too ugly for Los Angeles.”
Kylie Nelson, daughter of a cowboy father and a hippie mother, grew up with a powerhouse talent and a strong affliction for the emotion of blues and deep soul. Paralyzed by depression and self-doubt, Nelson needed to be broken down before she could rebuild herself into the artist that will stand before you at the street fair.
Warren Dunes will bring their brand of “polypop” to the stage. Torbjørn, meanwhile will be working some wild wizardry on electronic devices.
Kyberox will be “rising from the timeless nights of Chronos Bats, shedding the fur of the Furry Buddies and accomplishing the mission of finding the golden fleece that retires the Argonaut.” Kyberox hits heavy, riffs hard and vocalizes atomic waves that soothe and mesmerize into a cosmic tornado of volcanic ash. With Ashley de Choudens on vocals, (Reno) Dave Marseillan on drums, Travis Pellegrini on guitar and Chad Baker on bass guitar, Kyberox will guide you through this galaxy and to others far away.
Fairgoers can listen to hip hop, pop, rap, blues, folk, jazz, funk, soul and to singer/songwriters belting out ballads that will melt a heart of stone.
If the Hilltop Rats (five guys fueled with cheap beer, tequila shots, and way too much energy making punk rock) don’t give you something to talk about, the Cutthroat Brothers (two barbers making garage punk) will. And there are many more musicians on the list.
The only dicey thing about Sixth Avenue is that it can be difficult to procure parking. Event organizers thus encourage festival goers to leave their cars at home and be a green event-goer and walk. Sixth Ave has many dining, shopping, and entertainment options within walking distance of your neighborhood. Find out how close the event is before you grab your keys.
If you’re too far away to walk, perhaps you can ride your bike. Tacoma’s growing network of bicycle routes makes it fun and easy to get around, all while saving you money on gas and parking. There are bike racks up and down the Ave.
If cycling is not feasible, you might try Pierce Transit, Tacoma’s bus service provider. A list of routes and maps can be found on the Pierce Transit website (www.piercetransit.org).
However you get there, get your summer revved up by grooving to some tunes, tripping out on art and salivating over some savory dishes. For more on Art on the Ave, visit artontheave.org.