2016-09-29 / Front Page

Broadway Merchants Celebrate with Street Fair

Street Fair Show of Fun, Solidarity, Opportunity
By James Merolla

Merchants along Broadway have not had much to celebrate over the last four years as dust, dust-ups, digging, detours, and delays have become a way of life during a DOT construction project that has stunted their growth while beautifying their domain.

But for the vendors along this thoroughfare, their long regional nightmare is over. The celebration begins with ribbons – not yellow tape – being cut on Saturday, Oct. 8, at noon.

Even though the road itself will not yet be fully paved with blacktop, the merchants and businesses up and down Broadway have planned an all-day street fair from noon to 6 p.m. to celebrate the near-completion of their new digs, dubbed the Main Street USA construction project.

The Broadway Street Fair will begin at Equality Park, with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony by Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano, and extend to Washington Square. The day will be filled with music, comedy, food, family activities, and exhibiting artists.

Artisans, musicians, activities, and other vendors will line the parking areas on the west side of Broadway during the Oct. 8 street fair. Artisans, musicians, activities, and other vendors will line the parking areas on the west side of Broadway during the Oct. 8 street fair. Four outdoor stages will feature local musicians, comedians, and dancers.

“It’s a great opportunity for local performers, in both theater and music, to have a place to show what they do so well — and for locals, who seldom get the opportunity to see these people, to take the time and come down,” said Donna Maytum, co-owner of Firehouse Theater, a neighborhood fixture located across from Equality Park.

With the pulse of local musicians at their fingertips, Steve Lepre and Eric “Boo” de Tolly have lined up 18 acts to perform at the four music stages during the day.

Nearly two dozen restaurants will show off their culinary talents, with a choice of international cuisine spanning several continents. Local artisans will showcase their work, ranging from jewelry and homemade children’s items to a tent manned by Sid Abruzzi and Water Bros.

Many nonprofits will also have displays: FabNewport, Discover Newport, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, Thompson Middle School Maker STEAM club, Chamber of Commerce, Friends of the Waterfront and more.

The celebration is the positive thread binding the Broadway Merchants Association, which has met regularly in a show of solidarity with representatives of DOT as the various twists, turns, and slowdowns have wound through the last three years of waiting.

“All the businesses have been through a lot during the construction, so it’s such a great opportunity for us to come together and have a fun celebration on our street,” said Christina Erwin, one of the leaders in establishing the association nearly a year ago.

“I know I’m looking forward to seeing the street full of a little extra life after all this construction,” she added.

“People on Broadway are resilient. We’ve had fun, despite the condition of the road over the last four years. And we will have fun on Saturday,” promised Jack McVicker, president of the Off Broadway Neighborhood Association.

“We [hope] to do this street fair every year, so it can only get bigger and better,” said Broadway resident Mike Landers.

Representatives of the city have also been deeply involved physically, economically and emotionally, as Broadway – Newport’s unofficial Main Street and the key business artery into the city – also happens to be City Hall’s address. The mayor, city manager, members of the City Council, town planners, and everyone else had to hop over yellow tape and navigate loose stones and wet cement just to conduct their daily business.

In fact, it might be argued that no other city project has meant more – and they have Broadway Merchants membership to prove it.

Councilor Lynn Ceglie and City Manager Joe Nicholson have been extremely supportive of the vendors, working out many of the logistics to set up and oversee the Oct. 8 fair, and paying for the police detail.

The Main Street project will help the Merchants Association reach one of their major goals: to support and help transform the Broadway corridor into a vibrant residential neighborhood and commercial district. They are proud of the diverse mix of anchor retail uses and small neighborhood businesses, reducing vacancies and thereby minimizing neighborhood blight and crime.

Their several dozen members have assiduously monitored the construction work, offering ideas and even visions.

C.J. Barone, owner of Empire Tea & Coffee, one of the longest-running shops on the street (along with the Mellekas brothers, who run Mel’s Restaurant and who will be there Oct. 8 making authentic gyros on a grill on the sidewalk), has had a vision for a merchants association and a street fair for more than a decade. He is a leading force in the success of next week’s event. Open meetings have been held at Barone’s café over the past months, as people have assembled to plan for the event.

“The Street Fair is an opportunity for people on the island, and from over the bridges, to reconnect with the Broadway district and see what we have to offer,” said Mary Wall, owner of Ben’s Chili Dogs. “Many businesses have lost customers over the last four years who simply just quit [coming down to] Broadway. But, maybe, once they see the progress, they will be inclined to frequent our district again.”

There was much discussion about traffic patterns for the all-day event, with options ranging from closing the street, making it one or both ways, to the final decision of leaving it open both ways. However, Marlborough to Washington Square will be completely closed.

As one business owner on Broadway said, “This is going to be quite a showcase, and the best that Newport and Broadway can be.”

Over at the Corner Café, owner Jamey Simoes would agree. “Ultimately if this is a yearly event, it will help carve out our niche and help us stand out among all the other businesses and neighborhoods,” said Simoes, who was also an early organizer and leader of the Broadway Merchants Association. “We feel like we’re the local part of town, and we think this event will reflect that.”


WHAT: Broadway Street Fair WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 8

Noon to 6 p.m. WHERE: Equality Park to

Washington Square INFO: broadwaynewport.com

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