StART on the Street, Worcester’s annual fall arts festival, is back for its 14th year. On Sunday, Sept. 20, more than 250 vendors will take over Park Avenue with handmade arts and crafts, ranging from jewelry to soaps to knit clothing. Combined with a plethora of street performers, live bands, local nonprofits, food vendors and interactive art activities, stART is a free all-ages event that attracts thousands of people to Worcester each year.
According to its website, stART is “Central Massachusetts’ largest arts, music and performance festival.” Event-goers can participate in a wide range of activities, from making silly putty to visiting the Worcester Public Library’s Bookmobile to playing a game of giant Jenga. Children can build structures from colorful cardboard boxes at Block Party, draw on the street with chalk and participate in the many other kid-centered activities.
The festival, which spans Park Avenue from Pleasant to Highland streets, was founded in 2002 by Tina Zlody and Stacey Lord and a group of volunteers dedicated to expanding the art scene in Worcester and Central Massachusetts. The organization is still entirely volunteer-based today. According to Zlody, the program and events coordinator of Clark University’s Visual and Performing Arts Department, the event takes a whole year to put together.
This year, the stART on the Street team is looking to expand the variety of street performers at the event and is bringing in some new food trucks, as well. “We’re also very excited that Art in the Park is going on at the same time,” Zlody said. Art in the Park is an exhibition of sculptures created by New England artists and displayed throughout the summer in Elm Park, and Zlody said tours of the sculptures are planned during stART since the park is adjacent to the festival.
The volunteers make it a priority to ensure there is something at the festival for everyone to enjoy. The food, for example, ranges from barbecue to vegan to Asian fusion to pizza and much, much more. “You literally can’t come to stART and find food you can’t eat,” Zlody said. She adds that there is also a huge variety of music genres.
“We do try to mix it up; we try to get new street vendors, so it’s not always the same old, same old,” Zlody said. “But we also have our traditional people that will always come back year after year” – people like the frozen chocolate-covered banana man and the people at the kettle corn stand.
But what makes stART stand out from other arts festivals?
“Everything is handmade. There’s no vintage; there are no antiques. And that’s pretty remarkable that you can get 250 to 300 people that are just crafting things by hand,” Zlody said. “And it’s unique that we shut down a major thoroughfare in the city and are able to do this.”
StART on Street will be held from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20, on Park Avenue between Pleasant and Highland streets. Free. Rain date is Sept. 27. Visit startonthestreet.org for more information or to volunteer.
By Anna Spack | Photos courtesy of Michelle May.