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Avenues Street Fair

The vendors, the entertainers and the crowds have become traditions of the Avenues Street Fair as have the less visible, yet vital, volunteers who work throughout the spring and summer each year to make it all happen.

Fair organizers say they expect roughly 15,000 Salt Lake City residents to attend the annual event Sept. 10 between Q and Virginia Streets on South Temple — roughly the same number that turned out two years ago when the fair was held on another section of South Temple.

The fair will kick off at 9 a.m. Saturday with a children's parade and will end at 7 p.m.

"It has become traditional for people to look forward to the fair," said Walter Jones, chairman of the Avenues Street Fair.

Jones, who began helping out with the street fair in 2002, said he continues to volunteer now because he wants to see this tradition continued. He is one of roughly 25 core volunteers responsible for the fair's success. In addition, dozens of other volunteers will help with set-up, raffles, maintenance and cleanup the day of the fair.

"The amount of time and talent people are putting into the fair is an exciting thing," Jones said.

The core volunteers change periodically as new residents sign up to help, but over three quarters of those who help extensively have volunteered in past years, he said.

"It gets lots of people involved who normally we wouldn't see," said Ann Tillson, a volunteer in charge of booths who has been helping out for the past decade.

Several new residents have chosen to participate, Tillson said, so they are helping out along side the old-timers.

Nobody seems to remember exactly how many years the fair has been going on.

"It started out before my time," Tillson said. "It's at least 25 years old. It's just grown tremendously the past few years in size and number of vendors."

She said she thinks the growth is due in large part to the quality of vendors. This year, 215 vendors, from as far away as Logan, have signed up to man booths — hawking everything from jewelry to information on non-profit organizations. No More Homeless Pets will even have dogs on site up for adoption. There will also be 12 to 14 food stands.

Fourteen local entertainment groups will perform throughout the day on two different stages on either end of the fairgrounds. A quarter of the entertainers are popular groups that have preformed at the street fair in the past including Anke Summerhill, Stella and the Blue Healers. KRCL and KPCW will be the masters of ceremonies for the live performances.

"You wouldn't believe how much goes into organizing this thing," said Jill Van Langeveld, chair of the entertainment committee for the fair. "It's a lot of work, a lot of work."

There are details one wouldn't think of from obtaining permits and licenses to making sure the bathrooms have enough toilet paper, said Van Langeveld, who also has been helping for nearly a decade.

"Every year I would think, 'ugh, I don't think I want to do this again,' and then it rolls around and I think 'oh, but then I won't get to talk to all those people.' "

Without a committee to organize everything, there would not be a fair, she said. Someone will be in charge of something for a couple of years and learn how it works and then pass it on to someone else.

Girl Scouts have volunteered to Rollerblade back and forth along the fairgrounds selling raffle tickets, and junior high students have volunteered to clean up after the fair, she said. Fairgoers can purchase a raffle ticket for $1 or six tickets for $5. All proceeds go to the Greater Avenues Community Council.

During the fair, Langeveld said she finds satisfaction walking back and forth between the stages on either end of the fairgrounds, where the entertainers are preforming.

"It is a lot of fun to be able to walk down the street and see all of the happy faces and be able to say, 'Hi,' to people," she said. "One of the main purposes of the fair is to get the whole community together and get them to spend the day together."

For the second year now, locals can submit their artwork to The People's Art Gallery where it will be showcased during the fair. Judges will award winners in four categories: under 12 years, 13 to 18 years, adult amateur and adult professional.

Fairgoers can stop by the children's area, located in Reservoir Park, where children can participate in face painting and sidewalk chalk drawings as well as other activities. A bouncy castle will also be on site.

LDS Hospital will have their Life Flight helicopter parked at the Wasatch Elementary School playground for people to come look at during the fair.

Fairgoers can also purchase a $15 T-shirt, portraying a local resident's sketch of four different homes on South Temple.

Organizers change the location of the fair each year in order to highlight different sections of the Avenues, Jones said. The fair brings people to the Avenues.

"I do think it's a good spin-off for the rest of the community," he said. "When people come here they will go someplace else as well in the downtown area."


E-mail: sbills@desnews.com