FARGO — Downtown Fargo's population will swell over the next couple of days like a water balloon hooked up to a garden hose. The 44th Annual Downtown Fargo Street Fair kicks off today with around 200 art, craft, food and alcohol vendors taking up seven blocks of Broadway. It's always hard to estimate the number of people who come out for the event as there is no ticket taken for admission — but it's estimated about 120,000 people show up over the three days of the fair.
It's hard to believe, but I've covered the street fair for Forum Communications for about 30 years. (It's a tough assignment, but someone had to do it.) So I feel like I've learned a lot.
Today on "The Scoop" I'd like to give you a few tips from my decades of street fair going — little cheese curds of wisdom — on how to best navigate your day at the Downtown Fargo Street Fair. Watch the video on Inforum.com.
5 Cheese Curds of Wisdom to Navigate the Street Fair
Watch out for ladies with lawn ornaments
You read that right. They seem harmless enough — nice middle-aged Midwestern moms, wearing capri pants and sipping their Moxie Javas. But give these women, tall, wiry, rusted garden ornaments, get in their way and you could accidentally lose an eye. Every year there seems to be one ornament that everyone must have. Very cool. Buy it. But be careful how you carry it. And for everyone else, just keep your distance.
Pace yourself with eating fair food
This year there are at least 37 food vendors to choose from. The options are plenty from traditional fair foods like corn dogs and cotton candy to more ethnic choices like Cuban sandwiches or Thai food. Because I'm such a foodie, I like to walk the perimeter of the food court and assess the choices before I commit. If I know I'll eat more than one meal there (which I usually do because I work downtown and — come on — how could I not?) I'll try to figure out what I'll do for lunch and dinner. I also try to support the local businesses who are serving food at the fair.
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Be ready for the weather
That probably goes without saying, but a sunny Fargo day can turn stormy pretty quickly. The vendors are used to it and have learned how to quickly cover up with a tarp. But for the average fair goer, an umbrella is never a bad idea. When it's not raining, it's likely to be hot. The hottest weather of the summer often occurs during street fair week. Don't forget the sunscreen, hats and sunglasses. If you forget them, no worries. There's a vendor for that. You can also cool off walking through the mister or stepping inside an air-conditioned store.
Be prepared if bringing the kids
I've been bringing my kids to the street fair for at least 15 years. Here's what I've learned. Bring the stroller even if they kids are reluctant to ride in it. The kids might agree to sit in it for awhile, but after they've crawled out to make a beeline for the Dippin Dot booth, you're left with a practical way to haul around all of your stuff from sunscreen and water to lawn ornaments (see above) or leftover fry bread tacos. It might be a little cumbersome, but easier than trying to carry it all.
Young children will find a lot to do this year with more hands-on experiences than ever. Bring wet wipes to clean up the stickiness of snacks and the germs of everything else. As my kids grew, I learned the best way to avoid being 'I want this, I want that'ed to death is to give them each a bill to spend that day. Whether it was 5, 10 or 20 dollars, it helped them learn how to budget. It's funny how kids will be reluctant to spend when it's coming out of their pocket.
Also, in my opinion, it's OK to go a little sugar crazy at the street fair. They can eat their veggies later.
What about the pups?
My dog, McKenna, loved the street fair — the sights, the smells and the dropped food. (One year, she swallowed half a corn dog in one big gulp. Livin' the dream.) I think we underestimated how hot it would get when we were there. The heat, coupled with the excitement of being around all of those people, left her pretty parched. It's nice that many businesses will leave out dog dishes for water. But bring your own if you think of it (put it in the stroller with or without the kids).
Also, don't forget after all that water, dogs will need to do their business. Check out the Puppy Pit Stop area around Fourth Avenue North and Broadway.
A new stage for entertainment
Every year, I enjoy getting a sneak peek at what some of the local summer theater groups are doing. In the past, they've performed on the street. This year, however, you can see the groups perform on a stage in the old Schumacher Goodyear parking lot on Fourth Avenue North and Broadway. Other performers will perform in the street.
For more tips go online to Inforum.com. For more information and street fair schedule, go to the Downtown Fargo Street Fair website.