Montavilla Fair thrills thousands

See how an outer East Portland summer event, with humble beginnings, has grown to be a major attraction …

Thousands of people come to enjoy the day at the 2016 Montavilla Street Fair.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

In 2011, members of the Montavilla East Tabor Business Association (METBA) decided that hosting a street fair along a couple of the business district’s side streets would be a good way attract positive attention to their revitalized business district.

It was a modest success, and continued each summer – except one – since its inception.

The Roaring Lions reggae band provides a rhythmical soundtrack for this year’s street fair, playing at one of the two music stages.

But last year, organizers decided to “think big”: Close down SE Stark Street, and hold a large-scale street fair. Thousands of visitors – locals, and many from across the metropolitan area – came to the fair.

On July 31 of this year, the Montavilla Street Fair returned, to the delight of the thousands of people who came to stroll along SE Stark Street, again closed to traffic from SE 82nd Avenue of Roses west to SE 76th Street.

For the enjoyment of adults too – but mostly kids – Colby Gallinger hits the water in the dunk tank once again – an attraction that really makes a spash, provided by Mt. Tabor CrossFit Gym.

Happy about the turnout is METBA President Stephen Rice.

“We are definitely on track to hit 10,000 attendees, but we very well may outdo that number this year,” beamed METBA President, and Montavilla resident, Stephen Rice.

“There has been a good steady flow of people all day long; everybody seems happy, and having a good time,” Rice told East Portland News.

Both sides of Stark Street were lined with 100 colorful canopies under which art and commercial vendors, community organizations, and governmental bureaus met visitors passing by.

Linda Robinson, president of Friends of Gateway Green, raffles off a hand-made, bicycle-themed quilt.

Wambui Machhua is making Kenyan Samosas – a triangular-shaped savory pastry, fried in oil and containing spiced vegetables and ground meat.

One attendee, Marge Franklin, said she was visiting from Forest Grove. “We just heard about the fair this week, and decided to come by and take a look. This neighborhood street fair seems to be an ‘instant success’ with lots of vendors, good food, and music.”

While the dozen or so organizers made it look easy, the “instant success” of this street fair was preceded by six months of dedicated volunteer work, Rice remarked.

“In one way or another, committee members started in January when they started rounding up the sponsors,” Rice said. “We started meeting as a committee in February.”

Janey Nelson, Annette Gutierrez, and facility manager Scott Dobson from Cascade Athletic Mall 205 led the kids’ activities, including this dance party.

The band Northbound Rain: A Grateful Dead Experience, plays their last show of the 2016 season.

Having a “big party” is part of the street fair, Rice opined. “But, our hope is that it reminds those who live in Montavilla and surrounding communities of all the great local businesses that are near them, some of which may be within a walking distance from their home or business.

“And, when people come for the street fair, it introduces people from the greater Portland area to our historic neighborhood,” Rice continued. “We’re kind of tucked behind here behind Mt. Tabor, and some people might not realize what a thriving community we have here.”

Although many attend the fair, the street doesn’t feel crowded, as folks stroll down the closed thoroughfare.

Above all, Rice added, “We work to make sure that our businesses continue to be thriving.”

Looking out to the street, and seeing the families and smiling faces, Rice commented, “This definitely feels like a success. There’s a steady flow of people – it makes me so happy to see that. It’s great when you plan an event, and people show up and have a great time, here in our town.”

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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