Sixteen years ago, Lark Fest fell on my 30th birthday. I remember it was a beautiful late summer day, mild and sunny. My two best girlfriends had come to visit for the weekend and I was excited about so many things in my life. I was spending the day with my friends and sharing “my” city. The evening’s dinner plan was for a party of 10 to celebrate my birthday at the restaurant that had done a marvelous job catering my wedding and I couldn’t wait to see what the “Peters” at the now long gone, Unlimited Feast were going to feed us. And, of course, there was the fact that I had received exactly what I most wanted for my birthday. I was pregnant.
I remember that day so vividly, exactly what I was wearing, (a cool black maxi dress), and what I purchased from the craft vendors (a beautiful piece of pottery). Lark Fest was fun. There were families and students and couples all having a good time eating and admiring music and crafts and other merchandise. I don’t recall it being overly loud or crowded and I know we had a great time.
In later years, I brought my older boys to Lark Fest. They enjoyed the buzz of the crowd and the array of food available, although it seems they nearly always chose hot dogs rather than something more exotic. In the last 10 years, though, Lark Fest changed for me. I don’t know if it was when I began working Saturday nights at a restaurant on Lark that began souring me on the event. We used to have to keep our door carefully locked as we set up the restaurant to prevent drunk people from coming into the restaurant to use our bathrooms. Getting to work was a pain in the ass and getting my guests to the restaurant was virtually impossible until mid-evening because the street is generally closed to traffic for a minimum of 1.5 hours after the conclusion of the event. Maybe it was my impression that virtually everyone I observed walking by the restaurant looked drunk. And not in an “I’m having fun but may have had one beer too many” sort of way. It was definitely more of an “I achieved my goal of getting shitty drunk.” Gross. The families I remember seeing strolling the street were no longer a presence, elbowed out by college and high school students. It had changed. It wasn’t about music or crafts or food. It was about drinking. Period.
Lark Fest this year promises to be a different experience. It absolutely has to be because the residents and businesses of the Center Square and Hudson Park neighborhoods have demanded a change. They’re tired of intoxicated people destroying their property and urinating on their stoops. The inconveniences of a single day event (the noise, the inability to move their cars during the day, etc) are really not the major issue – it’s the lack of respect shown by so many of the attendees to the business and home owners who have so graciously shared their neighborhood.
The word on the street is that Lark Fest is in serious crisis mode. The folks who live and work 365 days a year in the neighborhood are done
being pissed on indulging an event that has brought more damage in recent years than festivity to their street. The police will be stationed at every cross street to prevent alcohol from being brought into the festival and they promise a crackdown on the underage and excessive drinking. Hopefully, there will be more bathroom facilities available and the attendees will use them. And maybe Lark Fest will regain that special place in my heart as a day to inspire excitement rather than dread.
What are your thoughts or memories of Lark Fest? Are there any you’d like to share?