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Thousands gather for Olde York Street Fair
Thousands of people celebrated Mother’s Day, York’s vibrant downtown community and the welcome arrival of spring at the 42nd annual Olde York Street Fair.
The event, centered on York’s Continental Square, offered entertainment from every angle, whether it was the main concert stage in front of the newly renamed Appell Center for the Performing Arts on North George Street, several bounce houses and face-painting stands for children on the other side of the South George Street route, street performers along Market Street or concerts on the steps of the County Administration Building.
The main stage on North George Street brought performers including the South Side Steppers and Hood Nation. Elsewhere, performers played and danced up the streets, holding spontaneous shows. Many people, mostly mothers, took photos around an elegant decoration of pink and white balloons on Continental Square. There also was a chance for children to compete in a dance battle for cash prizes.
The patrons: Thousands of people attended the event Sunday, which took place in breezy, seasonably ideal weather.
Jessica Bardwell of York said she enjoyed an extensive volume and variety of vendors, including Bricker's French Fries.
According to a release from York City Special Events, which organizes the annual fair, a portion of all purchases from food vendors will be donated to local charities. 50,000 people are estimated to have attended the fair, in line with last year's total, according to Mary Yeaple, coordinator for York City Special Events.
Bardwell said she remembers how much fun she had attending the fair as a child and wanted to do the same for her children.
She brought her 2-year-old daughter, Teagan, to the event and enjoyed the children’s bounce houses for the first time.
“They get a lot of energy out of those things,” Bardwell said.
One patron said she remembers coming to the first Olde York Street Fair in 1975. Christine Branch, a lifelong York City resident, said the fair has changed for the better, although it is a “tad bit” smaller.
“We always got rain before,” Branch said in comparison to sunny weather, “so this is nice.”
She still enjoys walking downtown every year with her family to enjoy Mother’s Day. Branch came with her daughter, Lauren Holland, and grandson, Vaughan.
Holland came to the fair in part to celebrate the successful run of a shows over the weekend at the Appell Center.
She was the choreographer for a production of "The Wiz" by Weary Arts Group and the York Jewish Community Center. She said both performances were “amazing,” and she was looking forward to seeing entertainment as a consumer at the fair.
The vendors: 175 arts and craft, food and nonprofit vendors lined up the route of the fair according to Yeaple, with products and messages as varied as the individuals who attended the event. Gene Acri, co-owner of Pottery & Country 4 You, which makes gourmet dip and dip chillers, said he enjoys coming to the event every year.
“It’s a nice group of people, I’ve never had a problem here,” he said. The New Cumberland resident and his wife, Ann, visit about 18 festivals and fairs annually, and he said he particularly enjoys visiting the Mother’s Day tradition. Sunday was his 12th year attending the fair.
Nonprofits also had a table at the event, including PA Nonbelievers. The group comes to the event each year to sell pins and bumper stickers to raise money for their efforts to maintain a separation of church and state in public functions, according to Catherine Smith, vice president of the organization. She said the fair is a great event for the group to attend, and passers-by and curious patrons were “very friendly people,” even compared to years past.
“We’ve gotten maybe one or two negative things said to us,” Smith said. “They’re probably used to us by now.”
Robin List, owner of the Maryland-based pottery business Penguin Pottery, said a co-worker recommended the Olde York Street Fair to her.
She said along with the friendly, often curious patrons, the fair has been particularly profitable for her business, which she runs from her basement.
List called her stand a “one-man show,” as she hauls dozens of supplies from her Manchester, Maryland, home to surrounding fairs. At the midpoint of the fair, which ran from 12:30 to 6 p.m., a strong wind began to blow away tents from several vendors, including List's.
“I will definitely come back, with a better tent and heavier weights,” she joked.