All’s fair

Jul 5, 2006 at 12:00 am

The phone calls and e-mails start coming in right after Memorial Day:  

Dear Ms. Doster,
My band (or my small business) would like to participate in this year’s Fourth Street Fair. Can you tell me when this year’s event will take place and who I should contact?

I wish I could say otherwise, but the truth is — your guess is as good as mine. This much can be gleaned from several years of writing about the Fourth Street Fair: If you haven’t been asked to participate, chances are you are not going to. It’s a neighborhood affair — and everyone’s welcome to come — but just don’t sully the fun with all that organization and planning crapola.

This community ethos, in all its frustrating glory, is precisely what makes the Fourth Street Fair the one event of summer many Detroiters refuse to miss. The no-philosophy philosophy is what separates the Fourth Street from other template-weary summer festivals.

The fair began as an impromptu meeting of the minds in the little “counterculture” enclave centered around Holden and Fourth streets. Legend has it that one hot summer day approximately 30 years ago (no one seems to know for sure), the residents of Fourth Street began playing a friendly game of volleyball. A beer run, an outdoor band practice and a dance party ensued — and by the end of the afternoon, someone said, “We should do this every year!”

Of course, the event has grown over time. These days there are (at least) three music stages, dozens of vendors, street musicians, performance artists — the works. The working motto of the Fourth Street Fair is simply “Everyone is welcome, except the closed-minded.” And unless you’re OK with tattoos, dreadlocks, political activism, the smell of patchouli, hippies, transients, punks, anarchists, scenesters, pinkos, gays and artists — don’t even bother.

But just because they’re free spirits doesn’t mean that they’re the type to be screwed with. Several times in the past, the state has threatened to level all or part of the neighborhood in order to make way for an I-94 expansion, but through solidarity and protest, the residents have thus far saved their beloved block.

So who’s playing this year and what kind of items will be for sale? No clue. But if the past three decades are any sort of barometer, it’ll be a cross-section of some of some of the best music, most delicious food and fabulous shopping in town. That’s all we can tell ya.

Saturday, July 15, at the corner of Holden and Fourth streets in