15 Sep 2014
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DIY Street Fair a Feather in Ferndale's Cap

Coordinators discuss what it takes to plan the city's treasured culture fair and what it means to them.

DIY Street Fair a Feather in Ferndale's Cap DIY Street Fair a Feather in Ferndale's Cap DIY Street Fair a Feather in Ferndale's Cap DIY Street Fair a Feather in Ferndale's Cap DIY Street Fair a Feather in Ferndale's Cap DIY Street Fair a Feather in Ferndale's Cap

Chris Johnston felt there was something missing in Ferndale.

"A lot of amazing talents were bubbling below the surface but not getting their day in the sun," said Johnston, co-founder of the D.I.Y. Street Fair (DIYSF) and co-owner along with his wife Krista of Woodward Avenue Brewers, and .

DIYSF was initiated by Johnston and a "large group willing it to happen" four years ago because, as he says, Ferndale wasn't getting all of the credit that it deserved as an artistic, creative community.

Each year, East Troy Street and Woodward Avenue is permeated with homegrown talent and dozens of local bands jamming on a large stage, while more than a hundred tents pitched throughout two parking lots are dressed with the wares of various crafters, designers, embroiderers, jewelers, and everything in between.

There's a beer tent -- in fact, this year, there'll be two -- sluicing suds from 35 different Michigan brewers. A handful of local restaurants will also have a serving area, should anyone get the munchies between sips, sounds or shopping.

"It does seem really massive," said Emily Husband, head coordinator for the last few years and manager of the Emory, "but there's actually a small group of people who put it together."

The DIYSF also relies on volunteers to help out during the weekend.

"We always seem to have just enough volunteers," Johnston said. "And I mean just enough... Those that show up work hard until the job is done, but we could always use more so let this be an open call."

(Those interested in volunteer can find out more information here.)

Making sure it's DIY through and through

Husband has the tedious task of reviewing the hundreds of vendor applications each year, begrudging the inevitability of having to turn some away, often due to applicant's varying perceptions of the fine lines for what truly constitutes doing-it-one's-self. "The whole creative entrepreneurship, making something out of nothing, is really the whole idea behind DIY," she said.

Husband has steered clear of letting the DIYSF become a straight up "art fair," stressing the importance of variety. Not just framed art or dazzling crafts in the tents, but also t-shirts designers, jewelers, and saving space for outreach by grassroots organizations are also part of the DIYSF.

"Also, I think DIY is a great showcase for bands," Johnston said, giving a nod to the second stage inside the Loving Touch, which will feature bands later in the evening, while the main Metro Times stage -- located where East Troy meets Woodward Avenue -- runs on more of a day/afternoon/early evening schedule.

There will be a launch party Thursday night at the Loving Touch starting at 9:30 p.m. The DIYSF will officially kick off on Friday at 11 a.m. when tents will be unveiled, amplifiers plugged in and grills fired up.

Success isn't in the numbers

"DIY's taken on a life of it's own that lives throughout the year," Johnston said.

And even thought the festival has grown in size, bringing thousands and thousands of people to Ferndale, Johnston doesn't use that as a measure of success.

"I don't measure success by numbers," Johnston said, "I measure it by the comments we hear the other 362 days of the year from people who say how great it was or how much they look forward to next year's."

It can be quite an undertaking.

Husband said she, Johnston, the WAB, the Emory and the Loving Touch staff, the DIYSF coordinators and the volunteers have to "get lots of sleep the week before. But we're all in high gear the whole weekend; we're even high-fiving each other on the Monday morning after."

This will be the fourth year for the DIYSF. But, the festival itself hasn't changed much in scope, just in size and participation (namely more bands and artists). Year one was by far the most work, but it's success "reassured us that we were on to something," said Johnston. "Every year it's become better and better."

In fact, Ferndale should consider this a "feather in its cap," Johnston said.

DIY leaks into the community

The DIY ethic permeates in this community, Johnston said, and it's reflected in the unique small businesses dotting downtown Ferndale, including the recent opening of the , a weekend artists' market at the corner of Woodward Avenue and West Nine Mile.

"(Ferndale)'s a melting pot of creative, eclectic, interesting, living-off-the-beaten-path people and those are always the people who make things happen," Husband said. "And still so tight-knit, we all look out for each other. I love being apart of that."

The DIY Street Fair is Friday, Saturday and Sunday and takes place along East Troy, between the Emory and the WAB.

For a schedule of bands go here. For a map of the event go here.

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