DIY Street Fair: Ferndale-centric Fun for the Whole Family

There are countless many festivals held in Oakland County throughout the summertime, from small Main Street festivals celebrating their community’s unique charm to massive art, music and food festivals (like Arts, Beats & Eats) that overtake a whole city for several days. From craft beer to arts and crafts, from fairs to faires, there is no shortage of ways to celebrate summer. But there is nothing quite like the DIY Street Fair.

The DIY Street Fair, which will be held in downtown Ferndale on September 14-16, is now in its fifth year. While the concept of bands, beer and BBQ certainly isn’t unique, what sets DIY apart from the others is its staunch commitment to all things local. Chris Johnston, who co-owns the Emory, Woodward Avenue Brewery and the Loving Touch, started DIY in 2008 specifically with the intention of promoting local artists, local musicians, local restaurants and local beer (in fact, aside from the Michigan Brewers Guild beer festivals, DIY was really the first to emphasize Michigan craft beers in their beer garden). He wanted to create an event that helped out as many local people as he could.

“[Look at] Detroit Comics – it’s way down on Woodward, too far [from downtown for people to see]. With just the [Ferndale] Art Fair and the Dream Cruise there was really no place for them for people to see what they’re doing, which is really unique and people should see it,” Johnston explains. “DIY showcases what is going on locally, so they’re here.”

While the festival started with a specific Ferndale slant, it has now grown to have more of a broader Michigan focus. It has also grown quite literally – from the initial confines of Troy St. (between the WAB and the Emory) and the nearest parking lots to now extending all the way out onto 9 Mile Rd. (the first time for the festival). They’ve also taken on a slew of sponsors, including Your Metro Detroit Chevrolet Dealers.

“This is the first year we’re doing more with sponsors,” Johnston says. “The first couple of years it was hard but we were just developing. We knew what it was about but now we’ve been doing it for five years; the more we do it the more I am excited about it! Now I can prove to people the value in it what it does for community. It’s easy to talk about things I think are positive things for our community in this small little part of the world!”

Thanks to the festival’s expanded footprint, DIY has been able to add on about 30 more vendors. This year festival-goers can look forward to some 130 local crafters, artists, businesses and charities (ALL local, no national); over a dozen different Michigan craft breweries (including hugely popular west-coasters Brewery Vivant, Founders, New Holland and the Livery, as well as locals like Rochester Mills and MillKing It); some of Ferndale’s most popular restaurants and food vendors including Detroit BBQ Co., Treat Dreams, El Guapo and Howe’s Bayou; and, of course, dozens of local bands – and by “local,” they mean “must have self-produced and/or self-released recordings,” and “have a tie to the local area and are passionate about the quality and authenticity of their work.”

As part of their commitment to the community, DIY also allows charities to do some fund-raising at the festival, and they are also a “green” festival working hard to minimize waste and use all compostable products. The DIY Street Fair is also a family-friendly event, with a Kids Zone filled with family entertainment from a ferris wheel and climbing wall to fun interactive and educational activities.

New this year is the DIY 5k and Fun Run on Saturday, September 15. Registration for the 5k is $25 in advance/$30 day-of, and $10 for the Fun Run. All proceeds benefit art programs at Ferndale Public Schools and registrants get a T-shirt, DIY drink ticket and locally-sponsored swag bag.

And the best part? The DIY Street Fair is free to attend.