Coventry street fair postponed until 2012

The second 2011 Coventry Street Fair, previously scheduled for July 24, has been cancelled.

There had been uncertainty about whether or not the event would go on as scheduled since the first street fair ended in chaos as police dealt with a flash mob that showed up in the late afternoon, June 26.

“We polled the community, merchants, city, individuals, and I got feedback from vendors and from performers,” said Steve Presser, owner of Big Fun and one of the organizers of the street fair. “It became very clear” that most people involved did not feel comfortable going ahead with it, he said.

“It’s a bigger picture than just Coventry,” Presser said. Cuyahoga County Sheriff Bob Reid’s recent pledge to help municipalities deal with flash mobs was “a vote of affirmation” for the fair’s cancellation, but the organizers did not receive any pressure from the county to cancel and most of the people he had talked to had expressed negative opinions before Reid’s announcement, Presser said.

Presser made it clear that it is his intent to hold at least one street fair next summer. The organizers are looking at “a more appropriate way to stage it,” which could involve charging a small admission fee, giving admitted patrons wristbands, and barricading all but the main entrances to the Coventry Village Business District, he said.

Two weeks was not enough time to implement those kinds of changes, and many people who were involved have “a little bit of a bad taste in the mouth” from the last street fair, Presser said.

“I certainly support the Coventry merchants,” said Cleveland Heights Mayor Edward Kelley, who said he was not involved in the decision. Kelley is looking forward to next year’s fair, which he thinks will be “better than ever.”

Cleveland Heights Chief of Police Jeffrey Robertson agreed that canceling the fair was the right choice. "Because of what occurred at the last one, we needed time to reassess before we went ahead and had another fair," he said.

John Nelson, public relations officer of the Youth of Coventry, a group of local teenagers and young adults who formed in response to the recent disturbances in the area, had a more negative reaction. “I’m completely against the decision,” he said.

“Something that was very dear to the Coventry area was taken away,” Nelson said. “People who come from miles away just to sell their art or show off their jewelry that they handmade . . . they live for events like the Coventry Street Fair, and they won’t have that anymore.”

Nelson questioned the idea that the organizers did not have enough time to implement the necessary security measures: “I think they’re not using their resources,” he said. In addition, he said that waiting until next year to see if the proposed changes will work is “not a route that you should go.”

Presser said Nelson’s assertions were off base. “Obviously he has not put on an event of this size and stature and scope,” he said. “Quite frankly, two weeks is not enough time.”

 The uncertainty about what it will take to make the street fair safe and fun is why it is being postponed. “We’re not sure,” Presser said, “that’s why we need time.”

Lewis Pollis

A lifelong Cleveland Heights resident and a proud graduate of Cleveland Heights High School, Lewis Pollis is an Observer intern and a sophomore at Brown University. Read more on his blog:

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Volume 4, Issue 8, Posted 6:14 PM, 07.11.2011