Keeping it weird: the 46th Annual Eastown Street Fair

Courtesy / GRVegFest

Courtesy / GRVegFest

Maisie Wiler, Staff Reporter

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On Sept. 7, local vendors, artisans, bands and musicians will take to Wealthy Street for a day of family-oriented festivities. The Eastown Community Association (ECA) says that the event, presented by MobileGR and Parking Services, will recognize local arts, crafts, food, music and the Eastown neighborhood itself, which the ECA calls “one of Grand Rapids’ most eclectic districts.”

The one-day fair will take place along Wealthy Street between Lake Drive and Giddings Avenue and also in the first block of Ethel Avenue and the Wealthy Street Hub Lot.

Events will begin at 9 a.m. and end at 9 p.m. However, the beer tent, supplied by Short’s Brewing Company and Vander Mill cider, will remain open until 10 p.m. From noon until 9 p.m., visitors may enjoy live music, performed by eight local bands and musicians, as they walk among the food trucks and vendor booths.

The Eastown Street Fair became an annual tradition in 1973, the same year the Eastown Community Association was founded. The ECA, who organizes the annual fair, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit committed to keeping its self-proclaimed eclectic community “vibrant” and “weird.”

“We like to think of Eastown as being a very diverse community, a very welcoming community,” said Don Lee, Executive Director of the Eastown Community Association. “Our motto, our unofficial slogan, is ‘Keeping it weird since 1973.’”

Lee said the first-ever Eastown Street Fair was a “hyper-local street party that evolved into a street fair.” 46 years later, this annual tradition is equally beloved by visitors, and it has only continued to grow. According to Lee, the ECA usually plans on 15,000 attendees. 

The event will feature two barbecue tents, Haitian food, Ethiopian food, Mexican food, Polish food, Malamiah Juice Bar and Sacred Springs Kombucha. Beyond food, there will be vendors with jewelry, kitsch, steampunk, paintings, screen printing, handmade soap and more.

“The intentionality is great,” Lee said. “A lot of our vendors have gone on to form brick-and-mortar businesses. This event and the (annual) Bizarre Bazaar, our early summer event, serve as incubators for local makers.”

Lee said the ECA is committed to finding “great makers” in its community.

Jeff Robinson, a Grand-Rapids based hip-hop artist better known as J.RoB, said, “I love to do this every year. It’s always awesome… (Eastown) is one of my favorite places to perform and do shows.”

J.RoB, in collaboration with Bedrock: The Foundation, headlines this year’s docket of live music.

Lee warmly invited students to come and see about the event.

“We’d love to have Grand Valley students come out and join us at the Street Fair,” Lee said.