FARGO - McKaila Ruud grew up in the Clara Barton neighborhood and remembers biking to the Downtown Fargo Street Fair with her family as a kid.
"It was always fun and cool to see the things you couldn't get to see on a regular basis," she says.
As the events coordinator for the Downtown Community Partnership, Ruud is excited again for the influx of about 300 vendors to set up Thursday, July 19, through Saturday, July 21, even if the event looks a little different this year.
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In years past, the route has focused on Broadway from Main Avenue to Seventh Avenue North, but this year's setup starts further north at Third Avenue. It continues up to Seventh Avenue again, but also turns east on Fourth Avenue and carries on to Second Street North.
"The idea is to explore new areas of downtown and show a lot of new spaces," Ruud explains.
There's also a functional reason for the route change.
"We didn't want to completely shut down Broadway ... When all of Broadway is closed down, it has a gridlock effect," says Melissa Rademacher, president and CEO of the Downtown Community Partnership. "It's not permanent, but something we want to test."
By starting the route further north, traffic will flow easier on east/west streets NP Avenue and First Avenue North.
Rademacher says when they started planning the event, they didn't know if construction would have started on the Block 9 project on the southeast corner of Broadway and Third Avenue North, and didn't want to risk having to skirt a work zone.
The shift also allows for parking on the south end of Broadway itself and easier access to parking lots like the new Roberts Commons parking ramp.
The LinkFM bus will be running circulars from the Moorhead Center Mall to stops in downtown and will be upping the number of units to cut wait times.
While the layout of the Street Fair is different this year, it may feel more like the event Ruud remembers as a kid. There will be a concentration of regional artists on the southern end of the route between Third and Fourth Avenues in front of the Fargo Theatre, called the Local Block.
The Street Fair started off with a strong presence of area artisans, Ruud says.
"It's strayed away from that a little bit," she says. "We want to give people a taste of what Fargo-Moorhead is and let the locals shine."
Another big change is the open container experiment. Five vendors - Drekker Brewing, Fargo Brewing, Front Street Taproom, Kilstone Brewing and Sidestreet - will be able to sell beer and cocktails, and those of age can stroll the route drinking from the clear cup.
The hours for open container are from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
"It's a pilot program," Rademacher says. "By all means, it's not a pub crawl."
She stresses that the Street Fair is still a family-friendly event, and she says she's looking forward to bringing her 10-year-old son.
"It's a great opportunity for families and friends to come down and have a good time," she says.
The green space on the Broadway side of Great Northern Bicycle Co. will become a family area during the Street Fair with hands-on activities for kids, and the neighboring Red River Market will host a lactation tent for new mothers as well as a changing tent, health and wellness displays and kids activities.
On Saturday, the Red River Market will go on as usual.
Entertainers, like the cast from Trollwood's "Hello, Dolly!" and Summer Arts Intensive's "Newsies" and a variety of other musicians, will perform on Broadway in front of the Red River Market.
For many people, the highlight of the Street Fair is the food, which also gets a makeover this year. The food court will migrate to its new home just north of the intersection of Fifth Street and Fourth Avenue, just east of the Red River Market.
The Street Fair is embracing local food trucks with stands by Pico, Potato Brothers, Twisted Spork, Texas Q BBQ, Jumbo's and Scoop-N-Dough Candy Co.
There's also more of an effort to appeal to visitors with special dietary restrictions.
"We want to be as inclusive as possible. Food is important and you need to feel comfortable with what you're eating," says Kalley Norr, development coordinator with the DCP.
She points out that Potato Brothers and Pico have gluten-free and vegetarian options, and many other vendors are willing to be accomodating.
Ruud already knows what she'll be getting.
"I am such a sucker for a corn dog," she says. "My mom couldn't say no to cheese curds, so I'll have to have some."