by Christine Beamer & r & The South Perry Business District is a testa-ment to the power of a neighborhood to bring about change. A snapshot of South Perry from five or 10 years ago might reveal a dimly lit street filled with empty, aging buildings and broken sidewalks. Yet a photo of the same area today would reveal a bustling coffeehouse, several renovated businesses, new sidewalks and stylish streetlamps placed alongside the street. This is what the sixth annual South Perry Street Fair celebrates -- the power of citizens to save a neighborhood they love.
The fair, which runs July 16-17, features a little bit of everything. Events are spread among Perry Street, the Shop, and Grant Park, a few blocks away.
"We're a walkable neighborhood," says South Perry Business Association President John Wojtulewicz, adding that he hopes visitors will take the time to walk around and get a feel for the district.
For the first time, there will be a celebration Friday night to usher in the South Perry Street Fair. This kickoff features the launch of the South Perry Summer theater, located in the parking lot of the Shop at 924 S. Perry St. Every Saturday night for the rest of the summer, the public is invited to bring chairs and blankets and watch a movie projected on the brick wall next to the Shop. The Friday night movie is Roxanne and it starts at dusk (meaning "about 9 or 9:30"). Before the movie starts, several local bands will be on hand to perform.
Saturday and Sunday will feature music at both the Shop and the Gazebo in Grant Park, as well as art booths and food booths all along South Perry Street and in Grant Park. All the musicians who will play both days -- a list that includes Sidhe, Milonga, the Celtic Knots among many others -- have volunteered to play free of charge. "There is a lot more support from the business community this year," says Wojtulewicz.
A Classic Car, Boat, Float, Motorcycle, and Tractor show will also begin in Grant Park on Saturday. "Anyone who's got a fixed-up car that they want to show off can enter" the show, says Wojtulewicz. He said the idea of the show, aside from enjoying unique restored vehicles, is to get people from the neighborhood invested in the fair. As he says, "We're just happy to have them come."
After viewing the booths and the cars, visitors can stop by the Lilac City Dog Club's Show, which according to Wojtulewicz will feature all types of pooches demonstrating tricks their owners have faithfully taught them. Or they can walk over to the Vanessa Behan Crisis nursery to view all the quilts in the Kindred Spirit Outdoor Quilt Show, put on by the Spokane Valley Quilt Guild (open from 9 am to 4 pm on Saturday).
While the quilt show is not affiliated with the South Perry Street Fair, many South Perry businesses will feature quilts in their shop windows. "We're trying to mutually benefit each other," says Wojtulewicz. According to BeLinda LaBounty, a member of the Guild, the free quilt show features 125 handmade quilts, all of which will be donated to Vanessa Behan, along with a hot dog barbecue to benefit the nursery. The Crisis Nursery will also offer tours to the public.
"This is the only day of the year they have an open house," says LaBounty, "and it's nice to go in and see what they're doing."
The Street Fair also focuses on helping Vanessa Behan. All fees (booth fees, car show fees, and parade show fees) go straight to the Crisis Nursery, and the Quilt Show and the Street Fair are asking for donations from the Crisis Nursery's Wish List (which can be found at www.vanessabehan.org) from the general public.
The climax of the fair occurs on Sunday, when the South Perry Street parade winds its way up Perry from Eighth to 12th avenues and eventually ends up in Grant Park. There are really no guidelines about acts that can enter -- last year they had everything from the East Central Drill Team, which carried power drills down the street, to cars from the car show. Kids can enter for free, and other entries cost only $5. "We are really trying to get more neighborhood kids to participate," says Wojtulewicz. Entry forms can be found at www.southperry.com.
Wojtulewicz and other South Perry residents harbor the hope that all the festivities will make visitors appreciate the charm and potential of the South Perry District. In fact, as the street fair is going on, contractors are working to renovate the Hoxsey Building at 10th Avenue and Perry, and the Business District is planning for stage two of the street renovation, which will revamp Perry Street from 7th Avenue to 9th. "People are taking very good care of their houses, families have moved in, and people are proud to live in the neighborhood," Wojtulewicz says. "It's such a great neighborhood." With the fair, he says, "We try to promote and celebrate the community we live in."