Brooklyn Heights

A sign of autumn, Cranberry Street Fair returns to Brooklyn Heights

October 7, 2013 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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For 35 years, neighbors in north Brooklyn Heights have been putting together what has been called one of the “sweetest” little street fairs in Brooklyn.

On Saturday, locals once again celebrated the coming of autumn with a day of homegrown activities at the Cranberry Street Fair. Generations came out to guess the cranberries, get a belly-dancing lesson, climb on the fire engine, browse the books and treasures, parade their pets and have their fortunes told, all in the shade of the tall oak trees that line the block.

Jazz performer Eric Loffswold and The Manhattan Tribal Belly Dancers entertained. In earlier days the street was closed off for square dancing.

Organized originally by artists John and Richanda Rhoden, the fair is still overseen by Ms. Rhoden, now well up into her 90s, who throws a party for the participants, many members of the Cranberry Street Association, every year the night before the fair.

“What a day, we were really lucky with the weather this year,” she told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “Everybody cooperated so well to put it together for the neighborhood. Giving this kind of thing to the community is priceless. To see people working together – there’s a joyfulness about it.”

Part of the charm is the fair’s small size, Ms. Rhoden said. “It’s so human. We don’t want it to get bigger. We don’t want people to come in and sell their products; we manufacture everything ourselves — with the exception of the belly dancers, but a lot of them come from Atlantic Avenue,” she added.

In all of the years of the Cranberry Fair, there has never been a commercial street food vendor. Residents grill their own hot dogs and hamburgers and bake their own cranberry muffins and cupcakes. Neighborhood shops like Jim Monte’s Cranberries donate coffee and snacks, local businesses kick in gifts for the raffle, and historic Plymouth Church loans out its folding tables.

“People are so generous with their time, and they don’t make any money for themselves. We use the money for the beautification of the street,” Rhoden said, noting the Paladins planted in the planters lining the block.

“I contribute bulbs, too,” she added. “I used to plant everything myself, but I’m getting on 97 now and I’m not as active. Now people give me a hand.”

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