By the time a person turns 41, he or she may be feeling a little less peppy than in previous years, but that’s not the case when it comes to a festival that takes place on a short, historic street in Cleveland’s University Circle area. The Hessler Street Fair is an annual community arts and music festival that dates back to the 1960s and manages to maintain the same “groovy” vibe it did in the beginning.
This year, the festival runs on Saturday, May 22, and Sunday, May 23, from 11 a.m. until dusk. Admission is free.
As in previous years, the Hessler Street Fair will feature a variety of singers and musicians as well as the work of artists, photographers and poets. Bands performing during the weekend include Case Sensitive, a young progressive rock/funk/jazz group; Carlos Jones and the P.L.U.S. Band, which plays roots reggae; and Early Girl, an all-female band featuring resonate bass rhythms and rooted drum beats.
Among the vendors at this year’s festival will be Batik Creations, DyeHearts, JBird’s Garden, Jukebox Art, Psycho Reindeer T’s and Terry Mitchell Jewelry.
What began as a hip block party grew into a street festival in 1969. The reason was to raise funds for the newly established Hessler Neighborhood Association, which was created to enhance the social and architectural integrity of the neighborhood. The organization has served as a strong advocate for the community throughout the years. When plans were drawn up to bulldoze the houses on Hessler Road and replace them with student housing and parking lots, the Hessler Neighborhood Association fought to preserve the original integrity of the area. Hessler Road and adjacent Hessler Court were granted the designation of being a Landmark District by the City of Cleveland in 1975.
Funds from the Hessler Street Fair benefit the neighborhood association.
Hessler’s reputation for drawing arty residents is matched only by its visual charm. Tree-lined and pacific in the midst of hubbub from local hospitals and Case Western Reserve University, Hessler Road and Hessler Court feature two-story houses with inviting porches. You can imagine an aspiring songwriter sitting out on one of those porches, one leg up on the railing as he strums a homemade tune on his guitar.
This sort of laid-back and friendly atmosphere epitomizes the Hessler area, even when it welcomes visitors to the annual Hessler Street Fair. While adults listen to bands or admire jewelry and artwork from vendors, children can enjoy their own activities. A regular feature of the festival is Harmony Park, an area devoted to kids. Face-painting, storytelling and puppet shows will be among this weekend’s child-friendly activities.
For a unique memento, festival-goers may want to purchase the “Hessler 2010 Poetry and Prose Anthology” for $5 at the festival or at Mac’s Backs bookstore, which is on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights. All proceeds go to the Hessler Neighborhood Association.