RARITAN, NJ - Fulfilling his campaign promise, councilman Pablo Orozco is bringing an annual street fair back to Raritan.
The event is scheduled forn May 9 - the Saturday before Mother’s Day - from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The plan is for vendors to set up on the borough’s main downtown thoroughfare, Somerset Street.
However, at the January 28 council meeting, concerns were raised and an alternate site proposed.
Carey Marago, chairperson of the borogh's economic development committee, brought the concerns of local business owners to the forefront.
Marago said that downtown retailers have reached out to the committee asking why there has been no communication about the event.
“They found out about the street fair on Facebook,” she said.
She questioned Orozco about whether businesses on Somerset Street will have the right of first refusal to occupy the booths in front of their stores.
“How will it work on such a busy weekend?” she asked.
Orozco explained that this event was voted on 14 months ago, which may be why the communication with the committee and businesses fell through the cracks. He assured the committee members that business owners will have the right of first refusal, and they will get a discounted rate for their booths.
Economic Development Committee member Christine Torres asked if the street will be blocked off to shoppers. Especially for retailers that see Mother’s Day as a prime selling day, having the street closed and restricting customer access will be a big problem, she said.
“Some of these businesses are really struggling for survival,” she said, “and to ask them to pay for a booth right outside their door is a slap in the face.”
The councilman said this event could bring upwards of 9,000 people into the town, a great new customer pool for local businesses.
“People have asked for this event,” said Orzco, “and it comes with no cost to the town other than DPW for clean up and an added police presence.”
It was asked whether the date could be changed and possibly the venue, with the suggestion of moving it from Somerset Street to the parking lot of the old Stop & Shop plaza.
Although that is not a street, Orozco said they could have that discussion regarding venue.
The date change for this year, however, is a no-go.
“Every other town around here has a street fair,” he said, “and we’re late to the party.”
Orozco added that Streetfair.org has these events booked a year in advance so there are no other date options for this year, but if it’s a success, a different date can be negotiated for next year.
Marago explained that the businesses are not against the street fair, but they want a voice in the planning.
Orozco apologized for the communication snafu - even though he wasn’t the economic development committee liaison - and asked when the next committee would be held so he could attend to speak on the event.