It’s almost time for the summer fair season, and what better way to kick it off with Cleveland’s 41st Annual Hessler Street Fair?
Traditionally a neighborhood that attracts those of more bohemian persuasion, for one weekend in May, Hessler Road and Hessler Court shut down for regular traffic so that the two joining streets can be lined with food and art vendors, as well as a main stage. Residents of Cleveland’s first local landmark district embrace the annual festival, sitting on their porches and balconies, people-watching, enjoying the live entertainment, or even gathering to play music of their own.
While the Hessler Street Fair has a personality far different from many other summer fairs, one more aspect that sets it apart is its focus on poetry. Local poet and performer, Ray McNeice, traditionally hosts a poetry open mic (this year on Saturday at 3pm) with his Tongue-in-Groove band at the Barking Spider during the fair.
But in addition, although the main stage is occupied for most of the weekend by local bands of all genres, on Sunday afternoon at 1pm, the poets will take over.
Each year, Hessler also sponsors a poetry contest and anthology, bringing the winners to perform during the fair itself (as well as some much-appreciated cash prizes). This year’s poetry contest was taken by Geoffrey Landis (first place), Mary Turzillo (second place), Jill Riga (third place), and Caitlin Smith (honorable mention).
The fair continues all weekend, from 11am-dusk, in the Hessler neighborhood. Maps and directions can be found here for all those who want to come out and support the local artists and voices of Cleveland.