FerndaleAugust 13, 2014
DIY Street Fair back on amid East Nine Mile construction delay
By Joshua Gordon
C & G Staff Writer
FERNDALE — In May when the East Nine Mile Road construction project forced the DIY Street Fair to be canceled, there was disappointment but understanding. Roughly a month later when it was announced the construction project couldn’t happen this year, but the DIY was still not going to take place, there was even more disappointment.
After hearing the opinions of several people and getting a gauge on the interest from vendors to put on an event this year with a short turnaround, Event Organizer Chris Johnston decided that the DIY is back on for 2014, taking place Sept. 12-14 in its normal location on East Troy Street and the surrounding parking lots.
“It was kind of like building an ark and all of a sudden it made sense, and it was something we wanted to do,” Johnston said. “One thing that did happen is we did hear from a lot of people who said at least do something, give us at least something, and after a while it just started to add up. And I don’t know what the tipping point was, but it just seemed like it had to be done because everybody wanted it. Everyone was willing to accept it whether it was 110 percent of what it was the year before or 50 percent.
“Eventually, overnight, we got the confidence that we could make this even better than last year and figured out what we needed to do internally.”
The event still needs approval from City Council, but Johnston said he spoke with several city officials and felt confident they would be able to move forward.
Mayor Dave Coulter said council sees the DIY Street Fair, which brings in nearly 140 vendors to sell do-it-yourself goods, as a premier event for the city, and they will help Johnston in any way they can to get it up and going in time.
“We are delighted that Chris and his wife decided to produce the DIY festival again this year, and the city will work with him to expedite any permits that are needed so that it is as smooth as possible,” Coulter said. “It has really become the most popular event in Ferndale, which is saying a lot because we do a lot of events. A lot of people, including myself, were disappointed when it was announced it would be canceled this year, and we couldn’t be happier they changed their mind.”
In May, Johnston made the call to cancel DIY because of construction that was supposed to start this summer along East Nine Mile. The construction would have started in June and been halted in August for the Dream Cruise before starting back up from Hilton Road to Woodward Avenue through November.
In early June, the bids for the construction project came in higher than expected, and the city had to postpone the majority of the construction until next spring and summer. The thought at the time, however, was that Johnston and potential vendors didn’t have enough time to organize the event.
Johnston said he heard some negative feedback from people because they didn’t understand why the festival wouldn’t return without the construction. After speaking with a few vendors, he said they decided to greenlight the event just over a month out.
“That was a big ‘X’ factor, too, that in the last 48 hours, we had lots of vendors apply and we had to kind of talk to them and see if they would be interested or be doing anything else,” Johnston said. “We had a short list of people we did a gut check with, saying we were thinking about this and if we did would they be available and what do you think the reaction would (be). The answer from everyone we asked was yes they would definitely be there and thought we should do it and we needed that.”
Johnston said he couldn’t give a definite number on how many vendors they will have, as they are still trying to figure out a footprint. But, the event will still include an entertainment stage and two beer tents with a possible third tent for cocktails.
While Johnston said he had come to accept the DIY wouldn’t take place this year, he couldn’t help but try after seeing all of the disappointment from people who attend it every year. And while there is a short turn around, he thinks they can make the event just as great as previous years.
“There was disappointment and we were disappointed we couldn’t do it, and we got a lot of reaction when we made that decision,” he said. “This event is not for us — we are the conduit — but the nuts and bolts that make things happen is the vendors and everyone coming together that makes it special. All of these people being in the same parking lot hanging out, drinking a beer and listening to music, that is what the event is, so it did not surprise me that people would miss it.”