Clifton's Van Houten Avenue - a Fair to Remember
Twenty-one years ago, a Clifton tradition was started by the Athenia Business Association when a group of small business owners sat down and brainstormed about ways of revitalizing sales for stores on Van Houten Avenue. The late Matt Grabowski thought of a street fair with vendors from the area as a way of promoting their establishments – for instance, a restaurant selling small portions at a reduced price – and hoping that residents would soon return for more. Organizing a street fair requires more than just a great idea; it requires people to run it, to make sure the necessary permits are obtained, insurance secured, vendors sourced and vetted, and security in place. In short, it's practically a full-time job. Yet, the Athenia Business Association runs on the strength of its members and putting on the fair is a mammoth task coordinated collaboratively by volunteers.
The first fair was just a few blocks long but was successful enough that they had a second and now, the 21st annual Clifton Street Fair will be Sunday, September 17th from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM. That’s hardly enough time to enjoy all the wonderful food, terrific crafts, and other items for sale ranging from toys to jewelry to home décor, apparel, memorabilia and so much more.
There will be rides for children, a martial arts demonstration by the Clifton Martial Arts Academy at 12:30; a performance by the incredible Clifton High School Mustang Marching Band; a dance performance by the Genovese Dance Alliance at 2:30, and everyone’s favorite musical entertainment, Swingman and the Misfit Mutts Band. A tradition is returning – the amazing Classic Car Show – and new this year is Monster Trucks Stock Car Racing.
To keep you fed and hydrated – you’ll need all that energy to walk around and take in the sights and sounds – there will be a large variety of different food and drink vendors, literally something for everyone from appetizers to ethnic foods, carnival-type foods, drinks and of course, sweets, including plenty of ice cream varieties to top off a delicious stroll up and down Van Houten Avenue.
A totally free bonus is the guarantee that you will see friends from all walks of life, and it’s a perfect time for families to have quality time together.
The fair is presented by the Athenia Business Association as a way of bringing awareness and support to the Athenia business district and being good neighbors. Sponsors include RF Knapp Construction, Shook Funeral Home, JK Realty, Marrocco Memorial Chapel, Corradino & Papa LLC, The Barrow House, Celentano, Stadtmauer and Walentowicz, LLP, and Signarama.
Their mission statement tells of the purpose of the group to “bring awareness and support to the Athenia business district…so Athenia can continue to prosper. The ABA wants to bring new life and new business to the Van Houten Avenue Athenia section of Clifton, while supporting existing merchants."
Money raised from vendor fees go to offset costs for other programs put on by the ABA such as the Christmas Tree Lighting, activities for children, holiday and other decorations on Van Houten Avenue, and also the Matt Grabowski Scholarships that are awarded to Clifton High School graduates who want to pursue a career in music. “Matt was the heart and soul of the ABA, and everything we do for the fair is in his name and honor,” said his brother Ray, “we all love the fact that our residents come to this fair, we really are a community that cares.”