2017-10-12 / Around Town

Broadway Street Fair Bolsters Local Economy, Community

As Many as 10,000 Flock to Year Two
By Joseph T. O’Connor

When Karl Nurse moved to Newport two years ago, it was for the world-renowned sailing. He still gets onto friends’ boats a couple times a month, but one fledgling event has instilled a profound appreciation in him for the one thing in Newport that runs deeper than sailing: community.

In just its second year, the 2017 Broadway Street Fair, held Oct. 7, drew thousands of residents and visitors to experience local music, food, drink and crafts on a warm autumn afternoon in the City by the Sea.

Kids munched on donuts and hot dogs and carried colorful balloon animals while adults took in 30 live musical acts and browsed the vendor booths. Families promenaded down Broadway, which police blocked off to traffic from Equality Park to Washington Square.

“It was fabulous,” said Nurse, a former news producer with ABC’s Boston affiliate and now co-treasurer with the Broadway Merchants/ Business Association, the nonprofit that organized the event. “It was a street fair but it’s actually more than that. It’s really a community coming to celebrate itself.”

The association, which formed in August 2016 organized the first Broadway Street Fair last October as a way to celebrate local community, as well as the completion of lengthy street-improvement projects on Broadway. It was also a way to recover from those multi-million-dollar projects, which lasted four years.

During those years, foot traffic along the Broadway corridor slowed, along with sales at many storefronts.

Last summer, as the street projects drew to a close, the small group of local merchants began meeting with city officials to seek “direction and accountability,” according to Nurse, who became further invested in the community after purchasing the building at 31 Broadway.

When Empire Tea and Coffee owner CJ Barone, who is also president of the business association, suggested a block party to celebrate the end of the improvement projects, the group aligned.

“We didn’t know if any more than a few hundred people would come,” Nurse said, “but thousands came.”

Last year, 10 businesses were members of the nonprofit organization. This year, support for the group’s efforts have grown to 30 paying dues, which were reinvested in the street fair’s logistical costs, streetlamp banners, and decorations, among other items. And the community collectively pitched in.

“This Fair is possible due to the countless hours of dedication from the Street Fair Subcommittee, local performers and organizers who donated their time and talents,” Barone said. “The Broadway Merchants Association would like to thank all the volunteers and the many individuals and businesses that have contributed to this year’s success.”

The Thompson Middle School band participated in the festivities as well, joining the Rogers High School band to perform in front of the steps to City Hall.

“Having the whole street blocked off made it the best block party ever,” said Don Chilton, band director for Thompson Middle School. “I think the kids enjoyed it more this year because there was just so much more going on. It was very exciting.”

Nurse was in charge of waste management for the day, which is no small task when thousands of people gather to sample everything from Brazilian-style barbecue and Greek gyros to pulled pork sandwiches, local beer, fried doughnuts and hot dogs. He received some welcomed help from the community, he said. Sean Napolitano, who owns A1 Roofing and Construction and Liberty Donuts in Long Wharf Mall, offered his truck to help with garbage cleanup, and Jack McVicker, president of the Off Broadway Neighborhood Asso Off Broadway Neighborhood Association, joined in as well.

Photos byJon Dillworth Photos byJon Dillworth Jennifer Sunderland, vendor coordinator for the Fair, recruited participant artists and artisans. She said the sheer numbers of people at the event stood out to her, and she also received comments about the diversity of the crowds.

“I probably saw 150 people that I knew,” Sunderland said. “I spoke to the gentlemen who own Hair Apparent, a barber shop on Spring Street, and they said they really enjoyed how it was an all-ages event: young folks, older folks, families. It was a really nice variety.”

According to Jonathan Cortez, one of eight Newport police officers providing security and coordinating traffic, the event brought around 10,000 people to Broadway and its dozens of businesses. The Street Fair, which more than doubled in size and scope since its inception last year, proved to be a boon to artisans, vendors and restaurants.

Stef Bennett, co-owner of Scratch Kitchen and Catering, which calls home its brick and mortar location at 88 Broadway, also staffed a remote location during the fair and broke their single-day sales record.

“We set up down near Equality Park, and I’d say the effect of setting up in two different locations, you know, we had a really great day,” said Bennett, whose restaurant also carries a catering license. “It was a lot of work but we were not disappointed, I’ll say that.”

The Fair, according to Sunderland, showed how the Broadway community, as well as the city of Newport at large, can unite for a common cause.

“I loved how this group of people … came together to make this one thing, this one event, as great it could be,” Sunderland said. “This was a huge event and it was exciting to see everyone pull together.”

Photos by Lynne Tungett Photos by Lynne Tungett

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