Plaza Festival

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Dance acts are a big part of the entertainment at the Plaza District Festival.
Comedy routines give festival guess a big laugh
The 2013 flash mob routine attracted a large crowd of participants. The routine is choreographed by Shanno Primeau, owner of Everything Goes Dance Studio.
Nighttime view of last year's festival.
Masks made by children are a popular item at the festival.
Festival guests take in the artwork that is available for sale by 40 Oklahoma artists

Plaza Festival gets busy with old favorites, new faces
On Sept. 27, visitors can explore art, performances, food and children’s activities in the Plaza District

By Tim Farley

Fun, food and good times will be in abundant supply when the 16th Street Plaza District kicks off its annual festival Saturday, Sept. 27, as visitors will again see a vibrant, evolving neighborhood that continues to attract new businesses.

“When the festival started (in 1998), it was a way to get people down here and get the district on the map,” said Kristen Vails, executive director of the 16th Street Plaza District. “It’s a day for families to come here and have fun. Plus, every year there’s new restaurants and new shops for everyone to see.”

Since last year’s festival, the district has welcomed a new ice cream shop, craft beer restaurant and Chiltepe’s Latin Cuisine.

Typically, the festival features 40 artists – all from Oklahoma – who set up booths along NW 16th Street. There are also street performers, food and beverage trucks, live music and children’s’ art activities.

The annual event, which in recent years has attracted 5,000 to 7,000 people, celebrates the progress of the Plaza District, an area once blighted by urban decay, but now boasts a renewed energy highlighted by creative and diverse cultures.

“The businesses and the neighborhood look forward to this because it brings in so many people. For the businesses, it’s their biggest day of the year,” Vails said.

Diana Harris, owner of Bad Granny’s Bazaar, said bad weather doesn’t dampen attendance or the spirits of the visitors.

“It rained last year and we still had our biggest day of the year,” she said. “People are in here all day long. It’s constantly busy. It’s awesome.”

To make her point about attendance, Harris said the one-day festival is about four times larger than the monthly “Live on the Plaza” events, which typically draw about 2,000 people.

Sharon Primeau, owner of Everything Goes Dance Studio, always looks forward to the festival because of a flash mob dance routine she choreographs each year. The routine is placed on YouTube weeks before the event so people can practice before the big performance. Anyone is welcome to participate, she said.

“This will be our fourth year to do it and people love it. We’ll have 40 or 50 of our dancers plus whoever joins the Flash Mob. It’s usually people of all ages,” she said. “We like to get out there and share what we do.”

Primeau’s dance students perform on the main stage and on their own stage in front of the studio, 1721 NW 16th.

“Plaza Festival goers are the best audiences ever,” she said. “It’s exciting for us because we have an open door and people are welcome to come in and tour our studio. We give it that extra shine for this event.”

The festival begins at noon and ends at 10 p.m.

“During the first part of the festival, it’s daytime friendly with dance, music and comedy performances,” Vails said. “In the evening, the music festival starts highlighted by four local bands.”

Names of the bands were not available at press time.

The Plaza District partners with the metropolitan library system and the science museum to bring children’s activities to the festival, Vails said. In addition, four teaching artists help the youngsters with their artwork thanks to a grant provided by the Oklahoma Arts Council.

As attendance grows with each passing festival, organizers are forced to play catch-up with the growth and development of the area and the event.

“I’ve been here seven years and for the first four it was a dream to get that first restaurant,” Vails said. “In the last three, we’ve added at least one new restaurant each year. We’re finding out there are issues we need to address like parking and maintenance.”

As Vails and Harris said, the Plaza District is “one big family,” which leads some areas businesses to host their own activities, such as fashion and art shows.

This year’s presenting sponsors are Fowler Volkswagen and Oklahoma Employees Credit Union.

For more information about the 16th annual festival, visit www.plazadistrictfestival.com.

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