Volunteers, artists reinvent downtown Fargo

By samantha stark


Downtown alleyways are congested and underutilized space. They’re home to garbage bins and lonely streetlights.

On Sept. 20, nine local volunteers will transform downtown Fargo’s forgotten alleyways into a community event steeped in urban Midwest culture. As an enriching public gathering, Alley Fair weaves together the very people and things that make downtown Fargo distinct, further shaping the identity of the area.

Alley Fair encourages the FM community to rethink and reinvent the way they approach urban landscapes. It creates awareness for the vast diversity the FM area offers.

Volunteers and artists look at downtown Fargo’s alleys as an empty canvas and attack it with vast colors of culture and passion. It’s an event to show others that downtown can still capture the artistic beauty it had years before. As years pull forward, downtown will always be a time capsule for those inventive individuals who see the deserted alleys of Fargo as an artistic opportunity.

“Alley Fair is a day-long community event that activates and transforms an alleyway of downtown Fargo with local food, music and art,” said Simone Wai, Alley Fair organizer and one of the nine local volunteers. “We create an incredible destination with painted cement, plant life, artists and live performers.”

Alley Fair is committed to promoting three fundamental focus areas: food, music, and art. By drawing attention to these local cultural assets, Alley Fair revamps downtown Fargo alleyways into a vibrant community event that opens people’s eyes to the possibilities awaiting them in urban neighborhoods.

The event originated in March 2013 and carried two later events in June and September. This will be its fourth consecutive event hosted in downtown Fargo. The event is estimated to be attended by roughly 800 people during the day with 350 attendees at the evening concert.

“Families with kids, college students, and young professionals have all come out to some part of our event,” said Wai.

Daytime activities, from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., include live art demonstrations, such as glass blowing and dumpster painting, delectable foods from restaurants and food trucks, and acoustic performances. Daytime performances are by John Narum, Ethan Rooney, Erik Hedman, and Randi Kay Olsen. Daytime performances are free and family friendly.

Guests can also buy local goods at the events Artist and Makers Market and Harvest Market.

Evening activities, from 7 p.m. – 11 p.m., include featured performances by Boots and Diane Miller (MSUM alumni) and the Silver Daggers. The concert is for all ages with a 21-plus beer garden. There is an $8 charge for that portion of the event.

Alley Fair is a temporary event, meaning all remnants of the event will be cleared the next evening besides the decorated dumpsters.

“All of the plants, art, and performers that we bring in appear for the day and are gone the next, so we were looking for something that would make more of a permanent impact,” said Wai. Since the main function of Fargo’s alleyways is trash collection, Alley Fair coordinators found dumpsters are an inevitable part of the urban landscape.

“We thought, why not make something that we have to look at all the time into something beautiful,” said Wai. “It’s just something a little quirky that makes people smile when they’re walking down the alley.”

Alley Fair commission local artists to paint them during the event. Last year, they selected a few well-known spray paint artists to kick off the project. This year, they are working with an artist and a designer to paint two more.

Alley Fair will be held in the alleyway south of Main Ave., between 9th and 10th St. South – enter on 9th St.

Volunteers are currently prepping the alleyways of downtown for the event.

“We have had an incredible amount of community support for the event,” said Wai. “I think people really see the potential and want it to succeed.”

Find more information about Alley Fair at alleyfair.com or facebook.com/alleyfairfargo.

Alley Fair is a community event that relies on volunteers for its success. If interested in sending a helping hand email info@alleyfair.com.

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