It’s all about the fun!
The 5th Avenue BID’s inaugural Fun On Fifth street festivals have put a new twist on the long-beloved street festivals Bay Ridge is known for: more games, more activities, more fun.
The Fun on Fifth series is a re-branding of the former 5th Avenue Weekend Walks. These Friday afternoon walks, which usually only close half to three-fourths of the avenue, compliment the big yearly Summer Stroll (officially called the Fifth Avenue Festival, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary). While the Fifth Avenue Festival fills the streets with outside vendors like zeppole carts, jewelry stands, and T-shirt vendors (and often seem like carbon copies of festivals elsewhere in the city), the weekend walks focus entirely on local businesses, neighborhood nonprofits, and civic groups. This year, it amplified that neighborhood-centric flavor with great results.
For example, local artists took over an entire block in the eighties, forming an “artwalk” from which attendees could purchase paintings and designs directly from the painters. Collecting all the artists in a single area helped lend a unique sense of place and character to the different parts of the festival, encouraging exploration up and down the avenue.
The block between 76th and 77th, on the other hand, was dominated by an open fire hydrant play area and bubble zone. Stickball-loving old-time residents and youngsters alike smiled at the scene. Usually reserved for smaller block parties, opening the hydrant on 5th Avenue took advantage of the extra-wide street to create a massive play area for children… though it did require a few strollers to dodge out of the way of the spray along the sidewalks. One block north had an area dedicated entirely to a swirling mass of children enjoying hula-hoops.
Old favorites took on new, creative activities. Not content to merely have a booth as with previous strolls, Bay Ridge Rocks held a festival-wide scavenger hunt, for example. Even off the avenue, stores encouraged strollers to come into their stores. For adults, wine tastings were going on at every wine shop. In another first, outdoor seating accompanied one-night-only menu items and chilled vino at the Owls Head Wine Bar, letting patrons enjoy the cool night air in front of Molly Crabapple’s beautiful storefront mural.
One of the unifying features across the stroll was the presence of massive DSNY garbage trucks every few blocks. But unlike their usually smelly counterparts, these trucks served as looming canvases for street art. They were part of the DSNY Trucks of Art program and provided yet another expression of arts and culture along the avenue, along with the usual musical performances and Tae Kwon Do exhibitions that have marked festivals past.
Overall, the festival was a refreshing take on a longstanding formula that has made the street festivals in Bay Ridge a wonderful excuse to invite friends and family to our neighborhood. It was a unique blend of old-school street games, digital-era selfie-worthy attractions, local arts and culture, and great food and drink.
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? We’re looking forward to more fun next year!
Check out our interview with the 5th Avenue Business Improvement District to learn more about how the street festivals are organized, and how the BID is reaching out to help local businesses.