You can’t spell Springfield Avenue without “Spring.” So it’s fitting that Maplewood commemorates May today on the avenue with the annual Mayfest celebration. The event has grown and changed since its inception, and the plans for this year are the most ambitious yet.
Springfield Avenue is closed off from traffic today. In place of cars, thousands of local residents are taking to the street. Attractions include two music stages, a variety of rides and attractions for children and an array of foods from dozens of vendors.
Beth Anne Macdonald, director of the Springfield Avenue Partnership, has been frantically preparing the festival for months now. She said the features of the event has increased from previous Mayfests—as an illustration, there are almost twice as many food vendors this year than last. But so too has the event’s scope.
“The event is really gelling into a Maplewood event, not just a Springfield Avenue event,” Macdonald said. Businesses and groups from all over Maplewood got involved this year, a development Macdonald was pleased with. “We’re trying to move forward with the township to promote one Maplewood.”
Springfield Ave. started putting on outdoor summer events in the late ‘90s. Initially, the events, then called the Maplewood Festival, were held in Maplecrest Park. In 2007, to emphasize the event’s connection with avenue merchants and businesses, it was moved out of the park and onto the pavement.
“We were purposefully trying to get people out to Springfield Avenue for a positive experience,” Maplewood Mayor Vic De Luca said.
It’s grown every year. In its present state, it’s a kid’s dream afternoon. A variety of inflatable rides will be available to bounce upon, including an obstacle course and the classic bouncy castle. Other features sure to get kid's hearts racing include the giant Velcro wall and a petting zoo.
“It’s a big family event,” MacDonald said.
And, when you need a break from the kids, Mayfest offers a chance to tune out to tunes. This year, about eight musical acts will perform from two stages. One, near Churasco’s will offer acoustic performances. The other, near Sovereign Bank, will feature electrified music. Performers include Maplewood’s homegrown children’s band Starfish and the jazz band Felt, who performed at last month’s Village Spring Open Market festival in Maplewood village.
The food options range from exotic to traditional. Maplewood’s Sona will provide Indian food and South Orange’s Harrar will offer Ethiopian cuisine. And less adventurous eaters, don’t fret; Coney Island Grill will cook up hots dogs and hamburgers, among other tasty options.
“It’s a good, old-fashioned street fair,” De Luca said.