If you live locally you know all about the Bluffton Free Street Fair. For those of you who don’t live locally, let me tell you a bit about it. Every September downtown Bluffton, Indiana shuts down for a week to host the Bluffton Free Street Fair. When I say downtown, shuts down, I mean it literally. Businesses close for an entire week. The library closes to the public and uses the time to clean books and “read the shelves” which often results in finding a few long lost books. While businesses are closed downtown is far from empty–in fact it is unusually busy.
Carnival rides, games and food booths move in to set up on Monday and stay until–well actually I don’t know when they tear down. The fair ends on Saturday night and by the following Monday the carnival and all signs of it are gone. Even the smell of fried food no longer lingers in the air.
As a kid, I think most everyone loves the Street Fair. There is a parade every weeknight! Tuesday is the opening parade. Nearly every organization in the county is represented in this parade. Fire trucks, police cars and ambulances lead off the parade with flashing lights and the concessional honk and blip of the sirens. Delegates of Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, each local school system walk the parade in groups. Characters like Clifford from the local library walk with the book cart brigade. Who knew book carts could be so much fun!?!
Politicians running for office gather all their supporters in matching T-shirts to walk the parade and hand out candy. Schools of voice, dance and local service organizations decorate floats that are judge along the route and the winners receive a cash prize for the organization. There are so many organizations and people in the parade everyone in the county must be related to someone in the parade. People start lining the streets with their lawn chairs hours before the 7 pm official start time–you can feel the excitement in the air. Right now, I am seriously regretting I didn’t make it to the opening parade this year…or last.
Wednesday night is the band parade. Bands from around the state come to march in the parade and compete. Thursday is the Industrial Parade. Local business are showcased in this parade, and possibly the schools and politicians again too. This is the parade where everyone should bring their bucket to collect candy thrown to the crowds by those walking the parade route. Yes, you’ll need a bucket–there’s that much candy! Thursday is also the show choir competition night. Norwell hosts the competition, and as such performs part of their fall show, but doesn’t actually compete.
Friday and Saturday are just pure fun days. Friends gather at the fair to hang out, ride the rides, play games and eat fair food. College kids come home for this, it’s the big of a tradition.
Did I mention the food? Ok, I’m more of a health food kind of gal than a fair food eater, but I’ll try to give you an overview. There are some local vendors like Mettler’s Fish and ZUM sticks. Zanesville United Methodist church has a booth, that creates a kabob of chocolate covered goodness including pineapple. Truly, I’ve never had a ZUM stick but I’m in the minority, and have heard they are AMAZING! My favorite are funnel cakes, you can also find elephant ears and every other kind of fried food imaginable. The smell of fried food permeates the air, and diets leave with the opening parade.
Now that you know a little about the Bluffton Free Street Fair…. one of my very first senior reps tossed around the idea of doing her senior pictures at the fair. She didn’t’ end up doing this, but I was hooked on the idea, so this year I invited the whole Senior Rep team to be part of a Bluffton Free Street Fair photo shoot. It was the first time some of the reps had met each other. I enjoyed getting to know each of them a little better, and watching them get to know each other a bit, too. In the couple of hours we were together, they changed from stiff and a bit awkward with each other to relaxed and having fun together. 🙂
I arrived at the fair about an hour before the reps did to scope out where the rides were and potential good photo locations. It very interesting to get a “behind the scenes glimpse” of the fair. Even where the carnival workers live during fair week is noticeable, if you pay attention. I never knew before that most of them camp in RV’s tucked in at the end of alleys and behind the rides. It was interesting to see the carnival workers of different booths interacting and the relationships they seem to form over the course of traveling together during fair season.
The real fun began when the reps arrived and we started shooting. Whether you’re local and missing the recently departed street fair, or looking forward to your own fall festival, sit back and enjoy a glimpse at our time at the Bluffton Free Street Fair.
PS–I’ve always wondered why it’s called the “Free” street fair. Walking through the fair and watching the parades, are free activities. However, enjoying the fair can get quite pricey if you need anything to eat or drink or want to enjoy the games and rides.
To book your own senior session or learn more about the Senior Experience–Click: The Senior Experience
To learn more about The Bluffton Free Street Fair: Bluffton Street Fair