Coventry Street Fair

Those who reminisce about the Coventry Street Fair often recall an uncountable amount of people interspersed with local business owners and outside vendors selling unique merchandise, clowns, magicians, fire eaters, musicians, and, most of all, fun. However, organizers of the fair have quite a different memory of the annual event. The Coventry Street Fair began in 1974 as an effort by Coventry merchants to draw new crowds of people to their shops. They were also eager to disprove rumors that the presence of the Hell's Angels, who frequented Coventry Village, made the area an unsafe place to visit. Unfortunately, it was not bikers but rather the fair's attendees that caused the summer events to be perceived as dangerous, both to people's safety and to the familial atmosphere the fair's organizers sought to promote.

The first decade of fairs were both run and enjoyed by the hippie generation. The City of Cleveland Heights gave permission for Coventry Street to be shut down between Euclid Boulevard and Mayfield Road, and what began as a sidewalk sale essentially turned into a carnival. As the years progressed, so did the size and cost of the fairs. More food vendors, merchants and entertainers delighted the crowds that became increasingly rowdy.

Although the fairs became larger and more popular, the atmosphere of the fairs failed to progress to reflect the changes of its organizers and Coventry residents. According to the Coventry Village News, "Values of peace, love and tie-dye [had] been replaced with values of family, community pride, and homeownership." Furthermore, outside vendors had been brought in to help pay the tens of thousands of dollars it cost to run the fair. This destroyed the main objective of the fair, which was to promote Coventry Village.

All of these issues coalesced in 1985 when Coventry Neighbors, Inc., (CNI), the group who organized the fairs, questioned whether to continue the eleven-year tradition. The street fairs continued for another year, until 1986, after which it was decided that the City of Cleveland Heights would no longer close down the street to accommodate the event.

The fairs were revived eighteen years later and ran smoothly for several years. Then things changed. In 2011, a flash mob - a trend in which a high numbers of teenagers descend upon a public location for either a positive or destructive purpose - threatened the familial atmosphere of the fairs. Because of concerns that similar incidents would occur, organizers recently decided that the 2012 fair would not take place.

Images

Audio

Street Fair Changes
Carole Close talks about the changes in the Coventry Street Fair (and its creators' lives) as time went on.
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What Are You Going to Do About It?
Larry Beam of the Coventry Neighbors Association talks about an incident that occurred because of the thousands of people drinking at the fair.
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Shut it Down
Larry Beam of the Coventry Neighbors Association talks about the decision to stop the street fairs.
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