While the upbeat tunes of the Giant City Slickers made people dance together in the heart of Carbondale, the Carbondale Main Street Executive Director Meghan Cole explained how the Friday Night Fair’s creation was intended to revitalize the city’s community.
“The Friday Night Fair is a place where the whole community can come together, young and old,” Cole said.
The fair is a product of the minds behind Carbondale Main Street, an organization that specializes in economic development, organization, design and promotion, all in the name of the city.
In its second year, the fair offers a weekly chance to experience Carbondale’s music and food. Friday was the third week of operation for the fair this year, which offered fresh food from Blend Tea & Crepe and Longbranch Coffeehouse & Vegetarian Cafe among several produce vendors, and came alive with the laughter of children who took part in various activities.
Cole said when the organization first came up with the idea for Friday Night Fair two years ago, it was not just seen as a way to showcase local businesses, but an opportunity to bring the Carbondale community closer.
“It’s totally family friendly and we hope to get together all parts of our community, from farmers to people who make jewelry and other things, to people who just want to commune,” Cole said.
Shannon Ranzini, Friday Night Fair coordinator, said this is her first year coordinating the Friday Night Fair and so far the turnout has been greater than last year.
Cole said they had about 500 people attend during the fair’s first week. She said this season seems to be more successful than the last because people are more aware, and Carbondale Main Street is happy to see the fair grow.
Ranzini said with more people aware of the event and new activities coming to the fair she expects it to grow each year. She said she hopes to help the fair becomes a staple in the Carbondale community.
In addition to bringing the city together, the fair helps promote local businesses which range from organic farmers to massage therapists and restaurants.
Elaine Ramseyer, Longbranch general manager, said while it is nice to promote the restaurant and increase sales, she more so enjoys the fair’s atmosphere. She said she particularly favors the music and seeing new or familiar faces greet her at her stand.
“It’s not about making money and selling this stuff, I sell it for three times as much over at Longbranch, but I just want people to be able to afford it, people who might not necessarily come to Longbranch,” she said.
She said it is important for local businesses to get the spotlight, rather than major corporations.
“Obviously it’s a marketing opportunity for local artisans, people in the healing arts, massage therapists, but I mean all these different small, local business people come out. You’re not getting Alltel and Verizon, it’s strictly local,” Ramseyer said.
If a business is interested in becoming a vendor at the fair they can pay $15 for a table for one Friday or purchase a seasonal pass that costs $10 per Friday.
Ranzini said the fair has a good mix from week to week with about 13 seasonal vendors and various other businesses added throughout the summer.
Courtney Smith, Carbondale Main Street vice president and Belle Blanche Herb & Flower Farm owner, she likes to be a seasonal vendor because she grows her organic produce directly from her home, and the fair offers an opportunity to promote her business.
Reed Hoekstra, a first time fair goer from Kankakee, said she saw the fair and heard the band as she was driving by and had to stop because of how fun it looked.
“I mean, I love it, this is the epitome of small town, you would look at this and see this in a movie,” Hoekstra said.
The bands are booked weekly by David Allen, an audio engineer and show promoter who has booked for many locations around Carbondale such as Hangar 9.
“The band is a very essential thing to the Friday Night Fair, so we want it to be real entertainment … good bands that are exciting. Most of the bands that are playing here you would, at least, have to pay $5 to see them at any other venue, and you’d have to wait until 10 o’ clock at night,” Allen said.