Summer is simmering down, back-to-school commercials are looming but fun in the sun against the backdrop of your neighborhood is still in full effect. There is still time for face painting, live entertainment and celebration of the local businesses courtesy of the new merchant association, Parkside Empire.
With family fun in mind, Parkside Empire’s Street Festival stretched from Flatbush Avenue and Beekman Place to Westbury Court featuring a fashion show, chicken cook-off and more this past Sunday, July 26.
Joyce David, one of Parkside Empire’s street festival organizers said, “The Parkside Empire is a new merchant association and the reason we call it that is because it’s Flatbush and Parkside avenues between Flatbush and Empire Boulevard — we replaced the prior street association and they haven’t done a street festival in a number of years.”
Desmond Romeo, president of Parkside Empire said, “Over the years, it has been consistent where the people from the community together with the merchants have always come together to make functions happen. For the past 17 years, there has been the Flatbush Association keeping their yearly festival and for two years we didn’t have the festival due to things happening in the past.” In contrast to the Flatbush Avenue fair that occurs annually in June, the committee created a day to raise awareness amongst the many new businesses along the strip and give the community a day to enjoy being a member of their neighborhood.
“We do things differently. We are making sure whatever revenue we get from the street fair, we plug it back into the community. Projects like beautification; also we are preserving the multicultural, Caribbean community we have here so the dynamic of different walks of life living in one area is what we’re focused on. At the end of the day, we have a melting pot of diversity that keeps the whole community stimulated,” Romeo said.
For the first event of this caliber for the newly formed association, David, Romeo and their other officers spent time brainstorming with community representatives to create a packed activities list and receive permission from the city.
“We had to work really hard to get the city to let us have one. The police department was very cooperative,” David said.
“We have been working closely with the community, they have been working with us and kind’ve holding our hands to make sure we’re following protocol and make sure we preserve what is here,” Romeo said.
A major focus of the Parkside Empire Street Festival was the inclusion of local businesses participating. Fashion designers from the community, stores such as Play Kids and Tafari Tribe all hosted a table.
For Mahkeddah Thompson, owner of Konjo Crochet and Crown Heights resident, the event was like a homecoming. “I follow Tafari Tribe on Instagram and they posted that they were looking for vendors for this event and I was really excited because I grew up coming to Flatbush Avenue with my grandmother,” Thompson, a Jamaican American, said.
The Parkside Empire solidified two separate permits, which allowed the association to cut the street festival in half – one side you found vendors selling anything from roasted corn to jewelry and on the other there were oversized games such as Jenga and the live entertainment.
The street festival was particularly made possible courtesy of Hudson Company’s sponsorship, which paid for the children’s rides. “Thank God we had Hudson to help us with these different rides for the kids,” Romeo said.
For Flatbush resident, Ashley Williams, the Parkside Empire Street Festival was better than the Flatbush Fair. “This festival is cleaner and it is very family focused – the Flatbush Fair is family friendly but not like this street fair. The oversized games are great and I think there might be more rides,” Williams said.
What the Flatbush Fair and Parkside Empire Street Festival share in common is that there is a strong focus in recognizing the Caribbean throughout the day.
Whether through art, business or music, Romeo and the association were sure to include Caribbean performances such as Brooklyn native and Soca artist Lyrikal.
With this major event officially notched on their belt, the Parkside Empire plans to continuing growing and supporting local mom-and-pop shops in their community through other events such as “Shop Local” during the holiday season.
“Sometimes we partner with Nostrand Avenue Merchant Association to do things like “Shop Local” to get the people in the community to support their local businesses. Someone brought to my attention today a good idea for when kids are waiting to get their hair cuts to give them books to read because there are new entities like book stores coming into the community,” Romeo said.
Follow Parkside Empire’s Facebook page for event updates and more hyper-local community news.