Downtown Evanston Fall Fest brings community together and spotlights local vendors

Tented+booths+lined+the+streets+of+Downtown+Evanston.+The+weather+is+sunny%2C+the+sky+is+blue+and+around+20+people+are+walking+around+and+talking+to+vendors.

Lily Ogburn / The Daily Northwestern

Downtown Evanston’s Fall Fest featured many local vendors on Sunday.

Lily Ogburn and Yiming Fu, Reporter

As the Evanston School of Rock Band played in the background, a bustling crowd of residents, vendors and visitors enjoyed the Downtown Evanston Fall Fest on a sunny, 60-degree Sunday afternoon. From the Artists and Makers Market to the Swing Set Drum Kit playground structure, festival-goers enjoyed an afternoon of activities for all ages. 

The festival featured live music, kids’ activities and an array of Evanston vendors. The free event was a fundraiser for Downtown Evanston, a non-profit organization that works to maintain and improve the Evanston business district. 

“We create an inviting environment for people to come downtown,” Downtown Evanston Business Development and Marketing Manager Laura Brown said. We do that through events, (and) we do marketing and advertising to bring people here.”

Evanston resident Liz Merdinger said her family comes out every time Downtown Evanston has an event. 

“We love this musical swing set, and (my daughter) loved decorating her pumpkin,” Merdinger said. 

Alongside attracting residents to downtown, Brown said Downtown Evanston aimed to make the festival accessible to many businesses with affordable booth fares for vendors. 

Rogers Park resident Sonya Marin, who runs the online boutique Sonya Marin Designs, said she heard about Fall Fest through her friends and fellow vendors.

Since launching her store last October, Marin has sold handmade craft goods like eco-friendly cards, wax seals with Chinese characters, flower arrangements and zodiac prints. She participates in pop-ups around twice a month in the Chicago area. 

Many vendors recommended Evanston’s Fall Fest, she said, because the organizers are supportive of their vendors and the festival draws good crowds. 

Some craft fairs don’t provide tables for the vendors, and participation fees can leap into thousands of dollars, Marin said. Since her items are labor-intensive and low-cost, these costs are often restrictive for her.

Marin said that Saturday’s event was more accessible than other events she has attended. 

“As an artist, I feel like this has good exposure, the vendor fare is more than fair, and they provide a table,” she said. “The less you have to carry, the better, especially if you don’t have a car.”

RetroFit Studio owner Barbara Ruiz said she loves coming to Downtown Evanston events throughout the year because they bring the community together.

Ruiz, who started upcycling during the COVID-19 pandemic with her son, sells products made entirely of recycled materials at her shop. She described the Evanston arts community as “very supportive.” 

“It’s very much about being a self-defined artist versus what others are imposing upon you,” she said of the city’s arts scene. 

Medill freshman Maria Jose Arango and Communication freshman Sydney Johnson attended Fall Fest together.

Arango said she first heard about the event from another friend. Although she has walked around the city since moving on campus in September, Johnson said Downtown Evanston’s Fall Fest was the first time she got to connect with businesses in-person. 

“I feel like coming into any new space, a new state, a new school, it’s important to find connections. Just because we just moved here, it doesn’t make us any less of a part of this community,” Johnson said. 

Arango loved how the festival brought people together, helping her meet new friends and connect with new shops and stores. 

“As a freshman, it’s really hard to accommodate to the city because I feel like I’m in this Northwestern bubble,” Arango said. “But this fest has helped me see that there’s another world outside of Northwestern.”

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Twitter: @yimingfuu

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