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Ours is the longest running street fair in the U.S.

U District StreetFair 2008

As we near the end of summer, here is an interesting piece of trivia about an event that marks the beginning.

For one weekend in May, the Ave fills with crafts booths, musicians, artists and lots of people. Just another street fair, you might think. But did you know the University District StreetFair is the longest running street festival in the nation?

The brainchild of Andy Shiga, a local merchant who owned Shiga’s Imports (still located right on the Ave just south of the University Book Store), the first StreetFair took place in 1970. It was intended as a celebratory olive branch between the merchants of the Ave and student activists. This was in the middle of the Vietnam War when campus demonstrations often spilled onto the Ave and police responded in force. Shiga, a business owner but also a committed peace activist, conceived of a festival of music and arts that would also help local businesses.

The Ave continued to change during the early 1970s, but the StreetFair continued to grow, now attracting more than 40,000 people each year.

Check out the collection of StreetFair posters over the years and get a feel for the variety of design. You can read a bit more about Andy Shiga on the Shiga Imports site or his obituary inĀ The Seattle Times.

What are your memories of the U District StreetFair? Were you there for the first edition? We’d love to hear your stories.

Photo by IsJo. Used under Creative Commons license.

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One Response to “Ours is the longest running street fair in the U.S.”

  1. Tiffany wrote:
    November 16, 2011

    I am one of 3 students in Community, Environment and Planning (in the College of Built Environments) working with the U-District Chamber of Commerce to redesign the Street Fair experience. Understanding the roots of the Fair, knowing its changes through time, and now learning what attendees feel about the fair is really important to us. We have a survey that is open now to gather feedback, and it’s been just wonderful to hear about all the stories that people share from when they attended 20 years ago.

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