Although I have lived in Cleveland my entire life, this weekend marked my first visit to a local festival celebrating its 40 year anniversary, the Hessler Street Fair (website).
The Hessler Street Fair started as an annual block party and in 1969 began its path to the street festival it is today. Back then, University Circle Inc. wanted to bulldoze Hessler Road to build student dorms and parking lots, and thanks to the money raised by the street festivals the streets became Cleveland Landmarks and were saved from demolition.
The fair today is a wonderful mixture of arts, crafts, music and food and attracts more than 10,000 visitors a year. I, as a first time visitor, was greatly impressed by the offerings of the fair.
Hessler Road and Hessler Court (there is interestingly enough no actual Hessler Street) are the two roads which host the fair. They are lined with a number of quaint, historic houses and end in a courtyard of apartments where local bands set up and played throughout the weekend. I had the pleasure of listening to the JiMiller Band (website), who’s mix of jazz, bluegrass and blues was a perfect backdrop to the relaxed, free-spirited feeling of the festival.
I did not get the opportunity to sample any of the food (as Emily and I had a craving for Tommy’s, a great Cleveland Heights food establishment), but we did stop by the craft stands, purchasing some fabric-covered hair clips and picking up flyers for a gallery opening of a local printmaking artist that I plan to visit in June.
My favorite part of the festival may have been the children’s section, Harmony Park. A make shift drum circle was set up there where adults and kids alike joined together to make “music” and embrace the festivals musical roots.
The festival, its visitors and the street’s welcoming feel made this a great first festival of the summer season. If staying in Cleveland I would love to someday live on Hessler Road and partake in the planning of this yearly celebration of one of Cleveland’s great hidden neighborhoods. Even when moving on and away from my hometown, I plan to make the Hessler Street Fair an event I revisit in the years to come.