Writer / Angela Boggs
Photographer / Yono Photography
This year’s annual St Matthews Street Festival will be held Saturday, August 3, from 11 am to 10 pm. Since 2012 the event has featured food, vendors and music. The Festival was started to highlight the neighborhood’s local businesses and history.
Sponsored by local businesses and restaurants and The Chamber of, it’s grown to about 120 vendors. The event is held at Frankfort Ave and Lexington/Bauer Roads, in the area from Gerstle’s Bar to Walgreens. Parking and a shuttle are available from nearby sponsor St Matthews Baptist Church.
Attendance has grown from about 5,000 the first year to about 15,000 last year. “People come back every year with their kids now,” said Josh Suiter, Director of Membership, of St Matthews Chamber of Commerce. This is his third year helping coordinate the festival.
The Chamber produces Halloween in Brown Park with the, held the Saturday before Halloween, and Light Up St Matthews, the first Saturday in December at Brown Park. “We didn’t know what to expect,” in planning an event for adults and older teens as well. In addition to the location, closing down the roads, and the issue of security, “it takes about 10 months to plan,” said Elizabeth Cleary, Director of Chamber Operations. She has worked on the event since its beginning. “There are a lot of moving parts. It’s a lot of man-hours for the Chamber.” Event sponsor and local event planning firm Eventualities also helps with day-of-coordination.
Entertainment and Kids Zone admission are free, and guests can purchase food and drinks from vendors, including businesses from St Matthews, Louisville, and Southern Indiana and food trucks, with options like pizza, snow cones, and even vegetarian options. “All the typical festival food,” said Suiter, and local retailers, with “everything from bow ties to furniture.”
One special part of the event this year is a pre-sale dipping station with sponsor Maker’s Mark where you can dip a bottle and have a souvenir photo from the day. The main stage will have pop, rock and country music from area bands like Wax Factory, the Rumors, and Freddy and the Cruegers. There’s also an extended interactive Kids Zone this year, with face painting, rock climbing wall, bounce houses, sponsored by St Matthews Baptist Church.
Area nonprofits take part too, as well as banks, credit unions, and a kids music school. Also, friends of the Library have given away books in past years. There’s also a 5k Walk/Run before the Festival, starting at St Matthews Baptist Church.
Suiter compares it to past St Matthews Festivals like the Potato Festival and the Indian Summer Festival. “It brings people into St Matthews, to explore businesses, and have a good day.“
Businesses on the area streets help make connections. While the Chamber handles permits and vendors, they stress the importance of the community’s involvement: “without them, we would not have gotten so far,” said Suiter.
The event is being marketed on Facebook, radio, local television stations, and an I Heart Media partnership; and with fliers in area businesses. “Anything to get the word out beyond St Matthews borders,” said Suiter.
The goal is have something for almost everyone – “there’s no one demographic,” said Cleary, starting with young families with children, then cocktails and dancing in the evening. Residents at Masonic Village get involved in the evening entertainment too, “watching and dancing and cheering from their balconies,” said Suiter.
Sponsors also include the City of St Matthews – ‘they fully support and give everything they can to make it possible,” said Suiter, as well as bar sponsor Encore Wealth Management. The festival has two bars staffed with professional, licensed bartenders from Naked by Sunday Mobile Bartending.
Other sponsors include Jim Beam, Hornitos Tequila, Printworx, Burdorf Interiors, Independence Bank, Baptist Health, Louisville Magazine, Commonwealth Credit Union, The Benefits Firm, Anthem, and Benefic Administrative Solutions.
To sum it all up, “It’s just exciting, and fun,” said Suiter.
St Matthews has an interesting history of festivals. The area was at one time one of the country’s largest potato producers, and was home to the St Matthews Produce Exchange, a potato shipping company, in the early 20th century. As farms gradually became subdivisions, the area became residential, and shopping districts like the current Vogue Center area began in the 1920-30s. The Potato Festival reflected that past heritage, and proceeds from the event were used by the Women’s Club of St Matthews to purchase the St Matthews Community Center.
Cleary described the Indian Summer Festival as well: “The St. Matthews Indian Summer Festival started in 1985 and was held in September/October over a series of days. It featured events such as a parade, health fair, a Restaurant Sampler event, Children’s Art Contest, Festival Queen Pageant, 2 mile Walk/Run and 5 mile Great Race, and Juried Arts and Crafts Fair. Some of the organizations that pulled together included the Kiwanis Club, St. Matthews Lions Club, St. Matthews Woman’s Club, East Jefferson County/St. Matthews Jaycees, and Senior Citizens East who joined with the then St. Matthews Area Business Association, which is our previous name, all to try and bring attention to St. Matthews and showcase all that you could do in the city. And of course the City of St. Matthews was a huge part of the success of the event with their support the event continued, per my records, it may be longer but I’m unsure, until at least 1988.”