Keep Calm and “Street-Fair” On!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Contagion craze has crashed concerts, basketball tournaments, international travel, and even the stock market…

…but C.O.V.I.D. 19 – a.k.a. “The Corona Virus” – did not disrupt what has become a well-established tradition in the Melrose neighborhood of Midtown Phoenix.

The annual Seventh Avenue Street Fair enjoyed its 18th year this past Saturday, bringing hundreds of avant-guarde artisans and independent merchants to one of Phoenix’s most colorful neighborhoods.

There were local musicians, classic cars, extreme sport stunts, and even a petting-zoo for stigmatized reptiles.

The event was curated by the Seventh Avenue Merchants’ Association, now in its 20th year (read more.)

“It’s fantastic,” said DeAnn Brumbaugh, as she poured old-fashioned sarsaparilla from wooden barrels. “The people here are different.”

Brumbaugh, who used to run a food truck, now travels all over Arizona (and beyond) serving her sweet concoctions at the roadside.

“This is my first year here,” she said. “I’ll be back!”

Brumbaugh said she earned in one day what takes a weekend at other street events in the valley.

“I’ve done Cinco de Mayo in Glendale,” she elaborated. “That’s more of a beer crowd.”

Brumbaugh was concerned the Fair would be cancelled due to concerns over the Corona Virus.

“They’re trying to shut us down,” she said. “I don’t know who, either the government or whoever, but this is how I make my living.”

Brumbaugh said she will become concerned if trade with China is not restored, as she orders supplies from overseas (find out about her business).

Around the bend a bit – literally – Melrose business leader Stacey P. Louis (of Stacey’s @ Melrose Night Club) confirmed the pandemic registered on the neighborhood radar.

“Only for about 15 seconds,” he said, good-humoredly. “And it wasn’t gunna’ stop me!”

Stacey’s enclosed parking-lot party was donned with rainbow flags and banners that read, “Love knows no status,” as well as “Love is free of stigma” in Spanish.

(Both promote social acceptance of those with H.I.V.)

A little further north, Phil Rakoci was surrounded by people facing their fears of things that creep, crawl, and slither.

He brought from his rescue shelter in Pinal County about two-dozen animals that make most people jump, including scorpions, snakes, an alligator, and a turtle-on-a-wheel (all right, the last one was kind of endearing).

“We’re letting everybody learn to love all the animals they may think they don’t want to love,” Rakoci explained. “Like Steve Irwin said, ‘if you can get them to love what they’re afraid of, you’re doing your job.”

Rakoci said he makes a living visiting schools, libraries, parks and other public venues.

Wild critters are just one of his passions (read more).

Meanwhile, his teenage apprentice Isaac Peninuri, spent the day convincing people that neither scorpions nor alligators are enemies (he let a five inch black scorpion crawl up his arms).

“I’ve pretty much always had an interest in reptiles,”  Peninuri said. “Most people aren’t willing to get this close.”

Up at Campbell Avenue, Tristan Anderman and his partner in thrills Noah Miranda put fair-goers’ nerves on edge with freestyle bicycle stunts.

“We’re living our dreams to the fullest,” Anderman said. “I’m on top of the world right now.”

Anderman, from Tucson, said he gets paid by a sponsor, while Miranda, who is from Gilbert, was performing as a volunteer.

“It’s definitely my dream to become a professional,” Miranda said.

Both teenagers work with Stunt Masters Entertainment and met for the first time at Street Fair on Saturday.

Down south, Chester’s Classic Car Show was held for the second year in a row underneath the Melrose Arch near Indian School Road.

The show originated on the former site of Chester’s Garage – now Denver’s Car Care – near the Rainbow Crosswalk at Glenrosa Avenue.

It was moved to the archway last year, and was hosted again by Fenders and Friends.

Back in the heart of the fair, the event filled every seat in the Melrose Kitchen at noon.

“Physically it can be rough,” said Cesar, an extra helping hand with a smile. “But it’s crazy good (business).”

The restaurant offered a special breakfast and lunch menu for the event.

Time will tell what effect the incessant international public conversation about the pandemic had on the fair, if any.

In the past, S.A.M.A. has released reports on event attendance and revenue within a few weeks.

Historically, proceeds are re-invested in the following year’s fair, or other association costs.

Last year, S.A.M.A. reported record-breaking attendance (read more about previous street fairs).

Brian Mori is a journalist, Realtor (R), developer, and teacher who lives in Melrose. He can be reached by calling 602-575-1170 or e-mailing bmori.realestate@gmail.com