Noe Valley Voice March 2005

Noe Valley Gets Into the Street Fair Action

By Olivia Boler

As February descended into a tempest of wind, rain, and fog--with an occasional teasing spat of sunshine--the last thing on most Noe Valleyans' minds was venturing out of their cozy homes to wander the sidewalks of 24th Street (unless, of course, the lure of Sunday brunch at Savor proved irresistible).

But drawing people to 24th Street in any weather was the number-one topic for some folks in Friends of Noe Valley, the Noe Valley Farmers' Market, and the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association, as they came together to plan the first Noe Valley street fair since the late 1970s.

On Feb. 23, members of the three groups, led by Friends Secretary Sara Butz, met with interested neighbors to discuss plans for the event, tentatively titled the Noe Valley Harvest Festival. They also confirmed the date: Saturday, Oct. 22. The fair will coincide with the Merchants Association's annual hayride and will have the distinction of being the last scheduled San Francisco street fair of 2005.

Boe Hayward, a legislative aide to District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty, also attended the meeting as the supervisor's liaison. Butz had invited educators from the neighborhood's schools, and representatives from St. James School on Fair Oaks Street were in attendance, including the principal, Sister Mary Suzanna.

"We're hoping to appeal to residents of all ages, and one of the ideas is to perhaps have some of the schools provide entertainment," said Butz. She would love to entice school choirs, bands, or even young thespians for one-act plays.

Butz and her colleagues--Forbeadin's Donna Davis, who represents the Merchants, and Paula Benton of the Farmers' Market--want the fair to evoke a small-town, country-fair atmosphere. The section of 24th Street to be closed to traffic will extend from Church to Sanchez streets. A part of Vicksburg Street may also be blocked off.

By San Francisco street fair standards, a two-block fair is small potatoes, but the committee members want to start slow. The 48-Quintara bus, which travels on 24th Street to and from the Mission, will have to be rerouted around the fair. Muni will also have to navigate around the hayride, but the 24-Divisadero will not be rerouted. (As usual, the horse-drawn wagon will start at the Walgreen's parking lot on Castro between Jersey and 24th streets, and run in a loop down 24th Street to Sanchez.)

With only two short blocks, the fair will accommodate about four dozen 10-foot-square booths for vendors. Davis, who is looking into this aspect of the event, hopes many Noe Valley artists and craftspeople will apply. "I'm pretty sure we'll have more applications than booths," she said.

Butz seconds Davis' desire for local talent, and says they hope to avoid national vendors, who seem to pop up at every street fair.

"Part of our mission is to get more patronage for Noe Valley stores," she said. "We want to let our neighbors and the rest of the city know that we're a shopping destination."

Along with the vendors, which the committee members hope will also include food sellers and nonprofit organizations, Noe Valley shops will be encouraged to set up sidewalk sales. According to Benton, the Farmers' Market will run all day and be an integral part of the fair.

One craftswoman the fair has already attracted is Chicks with Sticks cofounder Kathy Barobs, who attended the February meeting. She, along with the committee members, bounced ideas around for entertainment and vendors, such as holding a wine-tasting.

Of course, the big question is cost. There will be various fees for rerouting Muni ($225), renting portable toilets ($85 per unit), and arranging for Fire Department ($293) and health inspections ($75). Entertainment expenses should run about $4,000, and fair planners also need to allow for table and chair rentals and post-fair cleanup.

Butz wants to keep the costs low, and pass on as small a percentage as possible to the vendors, by recruiting volunteers. She has formed 10 subcommittees to take on such tasks as meeting with vendors, wooing sponsorship, coordinating inspections with the city, coming up with creative marketing and publicity, and talking to merchants on the Church Street corridor about what they could do to participate in the fair.

The first step of the p.r. process will be a contest to design a logo for the fair. Friends member Richard May is spearheading that project. The contest will likely start at the beginning of May and close at the end of that month. (Look for future notification in the Voice.)

Meanwhile, the group is off and running. "Neighbors and store owners have been saying for a long time that we need something like this fair to bring the community together," said Davis. "It's long overdue."

For those interested in signing up to volunteer, or to learn more about the street fair, contact Richard May, 206-0231, or go to www.friendsofnoevalley. com.