July 23, 2014

Elyria
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Visitors find unexpected at Avon street festival

AVON — Get out your credit cards, strollers and comfortable walking shoes because the 29th annual Country Living and Antique Fall Festival in Avon is just around the corner.

The festival is Saturday and Sunday in the French Creek district of Avon in the shopping center at the junction of state routes 611 and 254. The hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE
Peggy Strang, president of the French Creek Merchants Association, spins wool into yarn at French Creek Fiber Arts in preparation for the upcoming festival.

“We have about 60 vendors who will be setting up booths or tents and about 15 to 20 shops in the district who will be participating,” said Lois Shinko, a member of the Avon French Creek Merchants’ Association and co-owner of Countryside Antiques.

The festival was first held in 1978, and only five shops participated. Today, it has grown to 15 participating merchants with more than 200 vendors or business owners, Shinko said.

“There will be tents and booths, as well as shops in the district having sidewalk sales,” Shinko said. “There will be a lot going on.”

Many of the buildings in the area date to the 1830s, Shinko said, adding that she and her husband, Bob, purchased the store in the area in the 1970s and renovated it.

More and more people started buying the historical properties, many on the verge of being condemned, and joined the restoration parade, Soon, nearby homeowners were fixing up their houses, and now the entire district has benefited from the revitalization.

All of it will be on display for the festival.

“I love the way everyone decorates,” Shinko said. “They’ll decorate their stores and the sidewalks, there’ll be sales and tent sales. In the past, we’ve had scarecrow decorating contests and things like that.”

Shinko will be in period dress, her husband will be making popcorn, and they plan to decorate their store inside and out with scarecrows.

“People like to come out because it’s fall,” Shinko said. “They like the atmosphere, the sales, the music, the decorations. We love to decorate. We decorate the whole area with a fall theme.”

Musician Joe Marriotta will be playing his accordion at Countryside Antiques from 1 to 3 p.m. both days.

Shinko said the boost in sales that weekend helps merchants.

“This event really brings a lot of people into Avon,’’ she said. “Depending on the business type, we definitely see a sales benefit from the festival. For example, the restaurants and gift shops will probably be busy.”

Merchants’ Association President Peggy Strang agrees the festival is a boon to business owners in more ways than one.

“You can pick up any paper today and find two to three references to Avon these days,” Strang said. “Avon is a desirable community, and lots of professional people are moving out this way. We like this festival as a way to show off the city.”

Strang also likes the Main Street movement that is spreading across the country in response to strip malls springing up near interstates.

“You go to the malls and shopping centers to get what you want,” Strang said. “You come to us to get the unexpected.”

Strang hopes people will not only wander the sidewalks, but come inside the shops as well.

“We invite people to walk through the stores,” she said. “We want them to start thinking about their gift lists.”

This festival — along Detroit Road from just east of state Route 83 to just west of state Route 611 — is the city’s kickoff to the holiday shopping season, Strang said.

In addition to the main road, it will include some side streets, too. Just follow the scarecrows, pumpkins and cornstalks to find antiques, crafts, décor, flowers and much more.

“Usually when we have this festival, people just make a day of it,” Strang said.

Free parking is available behind the police station on Detroit Road.

Contact Alicia Castelli at 329-7155 or metro@chroniclet.com.