Rudy Cortese plays for passersby, one of the musical acts entertaining the crowds on the opening day of December’s winter street fair.
Chuck Gemmell feeds a gyro to Debby Meyer on the opening day of the winter street fair in 2016.
Mary Hudson carefully makes her decision while looking to buy just the right wind spinner from American Windspinners on the opening day of the 2017 Fourth Avenue Winter Street Fair in December.
Call it the rite of spring.
For 48 years, the Fourth Avenue Spring Street Fair has drawn artisans from around the country and thousands of people to the avenue. This year, it’s happening March 2-4.
Here are our top street fair insights:
The art: 350 artisans will line the avenue between East University Boulevard and East Eighth Street, says Monique Vallery, Fourth Avenue Merchants Association’s event planner. They come from around the country, she adds. You’ll find ceramics, glass art, clothing, jewelry, sculpture, photography, custom wood work — the list goes on. The Fourth Avenue Merchants Association makes it a requirement that the artists attend, so you’ll meet the force behind the art.
The music: There are two stages set up, one on East Seventh Street, and another on East Fifth Street. The music will be nearly constant. And eclectic. Among the music-makers: The acoustic folk-punk group Eulogy Project, the rock quartet The Unday, and the youth mariachi group Mariachi Los Giros. If you can’t find music to your liking at the street fair, you may not really like music.
The food: There will be more than 45 food vendors at the street fair. You can chow down on such goodies as barbecue, donuts, corn dogs, Greek food, Chinese, and fry bread (Vallery strongly recommends the mom and pop eatery AJ’s Fry Bread — “the best” she says). “There are all sorts of wonderful things to eat,” says Vallery. “The good thing is you can walk off the calories.”
People watching: The street fair is one of the best people-watching events in Tucson. About 500,000 are expected over the three days. Grab a fry bread, sit on a curb and indulge.
The Modern Streetcar: You can take the streetcar to the fair; you just can’t take it through it. Service on the east end of the line will stop at East University Boulevard and North Third Avenue, and at East Eighth Street and North Fourth Avenue on the west end.
Parking: There is street parking, but be warned: The police freely give out parking tickets during the street fair: Pay attention to signs. Don’t block driveways. There will be free shuttle service from the Pennington Street Garage, 110 E. Pennington Street, and the Tyndall Avenue Garage, 711 N. Tyndall Ave.
About those dogs: With the exception of service animals, no dogs are allowed at the fair. That’s for their protection, says Vallery. “Pets get stepped on,” she says. Also, that many people can be stressful for an animal. “We are trying to be mindful of our four-legged friends.”
Go early: Say you love the fair, hate the crowds. Get there early, Vallery suggests. The crowds are thinnest when it first opens at 10 a.m. And you might have good luck going even earlier. “A lot of artists open early,” she says.
Go late: We’ve found that checking the fair out late on the final day results in some fine bargains.