by Lou Mancinelli
Making your own pottery, vocal and guitar lessons, observing a live beehive and learning what it’s like to do acupuncture by practicing on an orange are just some of the activities one will have to choose from at the Ninth Annual Mt. Airy Village Fair.
Hosted each year at Greene Street and Carpenter Lane, the preparations for this year’s fair on Sunday, Sept. 20, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., are underway. Vendor and performer applications are being accepted through Aug. 20.
“It really is a celebration and a thank you to our community,” said Meg Hagele, owner of High Point Cafe and one of the founders of the Village Fair. All volunteer-run, without a budget, “it is by the community, for the community.”
One thing that gives the Mt. Airy Village Fair its own identity, besides its many locally-owned shops, among numerous other local fairs and festivals is that each year organizers ask vendors to do one activity that engages with the people. Last year, for example, a woodworker helped people build their own birdhouses.
Something “beyond just selling the tchotchke you make or handing out your pamphlet,” Hagele said. Last year people could watch chickens hatching, courtesy of Pam Rogow, owner of Green on Greene, a Mt. Airy building where various pop-up businesses have sprouted.
There are also Fair Dollars — credits worth one dollar that are earned by winning at the various carnival games — which can be used to buy things like a funnel cake or a burger.
In addition to music, food, dancing, and other performances, so far this year’s fair includes vendors like Inspire Energy, an affordable clean energy company based in Fishtown. They’ll show a solar wind turbine at their booth. Local filmmaker Brittany Rafalak will be giving folks temporary henna tattoos — the Arabic designs popular now that one often sees on people’s wrists and hands.
Back in 2006 the owners of five businesses: Weaver’s Way Co-op, High Point Cafe, Big Blue Marble Bookstore, Maternity Wellness Center/Nesting House and Green on Greene agreed: “We thought it would be fun to have a super old school, no electricity — the neighbors come out and have a party,” Hagele said about the Village Fair’s first year.
One of the people Hagele and Rogow approached that first year was local resident James McCoy, who runs James McCoy Carpentry, a general contracting and carpentry company that does custom millwork and furniture. He set up a small sculpture lab for kids.
“I really feel like Mt. Airy is a village,” said McCoy, who has lived in the neighborhood for 13 years. When Hagele went through the zoning process for High Point Café, he was at the zoning meetings.
A few weeks ago he ran into Hagele at her cafe. She asked him if he’d do another display this year, telling him how much they enjoyed his interactive one last time. This year McCoy plans to show people how to make lamps. He’ll help make lampshades and likely show how wiring is done.
Each year the hope is that people will “just do something fun and creative,” Hagele said, like last year when Urban Athletes constructed an obstacle course. Another imaginative element of this year’s fair comes from the folks who ran Walk A Crooked Mile Books — poetry in the wind. They will string poems into the leaves of a tree and encourage others to write and add their own.
“It’s a really a fun day to come out and enjoy Mt. Airy and all the fun, quirky people who make Mt. Airy awesome … This is kind of our block party.”
People can even bring their (calm) pets (dogs, cats, ducks, iguanas, even stuffed animals)! Animals dressed according to the theme “The farmer in the ‘delphia” (urban farming) will be eligible to win a ribbon! (No costume required to participate, though!)