The Biggest Street Party in Fort William
By Leah Morningstar
Lori Paras has been a business owner in Thunder Bay for a long time and has been operating on the south side of town for 14 years. For the past six years, The Hub Bazaar on May Street has been her home. Paras describes The Hub as “a retail business incubator that helps small business owners work out their plans before moving into their own brick and mortar store.”
In 2019, Paras approached the Fort William Business District BIA with an idea for a big street party. If the north side of the city had the Buskers Festival, Paras was hoping to create a south side equivalent. That first year they had about 25 vendors and live music and lots of fun; it was a pretty big success. The idea was to make it an annual festival, but then COVID happened and plans were put on hold. There was no festival in 2020 or 2021, but 2022 is the year the South Side Vibe is returning.
This year there will be more vendors (up to 50), live music, comedy acts, and a pop-up podcasting station by local podcaster Thamichaelated. The Dew Drop Inn barbecue food truck will be on the scene making burgers (all proceeds go towards the Dew Drop Inn community food and outreach programs) and Paras is hoping to secure additional food vendors very soon.
Paras acknowledges that there are certain neighbourhoods in Thunder Bay that make some people nervous. She’s lived on the south side long enough and is familiar with the loud and occasionally chaotic sounds of nighttime parties and fighting. In the last few years, some local bars have relocated and changed ownership, and Paras says things feel softer and safer. One of the goals in organizing and executing a huge outdoor party in Fort William is to show people that it’s okay to walk the streets and visit the little shops and restaurants and meet the people. “It’s really important to bring this party back to the streets in 2022,” she says. “It’s time to celebrate and it’s time to show the community what we do here!”
The month of August will be spent letting the community know about the party, dropping flyers in mailboxes, and really getting the word out. Anyone interested in participating is urged to contact Paras. She says she’s open to more vendors, more music, and more food. This party is going to be the last big summer event of the season, shortly after the Hymers Fair but before the colder weather settles in. It will take place September 10 from 11 am to 3 pm in the EZ Green Bikes parking lot, at the corner of Violet Street and North Street. This is happening rain or shine and everyone is welcome, no exceptions!
Contact Lori Paras at firstname.lastname@example.org or 632-3881 if you’re interested in being a participant or a volunteer.