May 26, 2019 | 78° F

Arts in the Park festival will draw hundreds of dancers, musicians and creatives to Highland Park

More than 200 artists and vendors attended last year's event

Photo by Facebook |

The "Arts in the Park" festival, which is in its 13th year, will take place later this month in Highland Park and will bring together over 200 creatives and vendors across the Raritan. The event will combine visual art, music and dance and will be centered in the downtown area.

Somewhere over the Raritan and in Highland Park, the yearly "Arts in the Park" festival is held, showcasing the work of independent vendors and encouraging members of the community to support their local businesses.

Downtown on Raritan Avenue, tents sprawl out over the pavement as visitors walk their way through booths, including a variety of artistic offerings from paintings to textiles, needlework, live music and a juried art show that showcases the many talents Highland Park has to offer.

Executive Director of Main Street Highland Park, Rebecca Hersh, said the nonprofit community development organization manages the downtown business district for the benefit of the merchants, business owners and residents of Highland Park.

Coming out of college with a degree in urban planning and a love of walkable towns meant Highland Park was the ideal place for her to call home, she said. From there, Hersh began working with the nonprofit organization.

As dedicated advocates, they work to improve Downtown Highland Park by focusing on its commercial assets, visual appeal, safety and desirability as a destination for business, shopping, dining and fun, Hersh said. Arts in the Park serves as a reflection of the artistic culture the town has to offer by providing a space to showcase its talents.

Coming up on its 13th year, the event consistently attracted larger crowds each year and 2017 should not be any different, Hersh said. The organization anticipates roughly 200 artists and vendors, four separate stages hosting music performances from both the New Brunswick and Highland Park underground music scenes, and a host of dance performances.

Additional activities include a chalk art zone for children as well as a kids art show. A number of food trucks in addition to food from local restaurants will also be available.

Through personal networking, the organization has managed to link independent artists to the event and one another, building a database around members of the community helping to spread notice of the event via social media and by word of mouth, Hersh said.

“Events like these build community pride and make our community a destination for the arts. This event is free and open to all. Walking around town, looking at gorgeous art, hearing wonderful local bands, it's good for the soul,” she said.

Omar Rojas, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said he first heard about the event through a friend and decided to check out the event’s page on Facebook.

“I’m very fond of street fairs. When I learned about the event I decided to check it out and was immediately drawn to the group’s profile picture. It seemed like there would be second-hand shops which I’m really interested in, I feel they carry a unique history,” he said.

The allure of food trucks was the cherry on top as this new scene in New Brunswick has steadily declined over the last few years, Rojas said. The presence of street fairs brings positivity into communities and helps spill Rutgers spirit into its surrounding neighborhoods.

Running into classmates outside of campus adds to the excitement, Rojas said. Never knowing whether or not they will run into someone from class and strike up a conversation is suspenseful and puts both individuals in a space that requires nothing more of them than to be themselves.

“Another beautiful thing about street fairs is that they are very good at bringing communities together, it is very nice to see Rutgers life outside of New Brunswick. Most of the time you are exposed to this small area so seeing life outside of that is a nice change of pace,” he said.

Alicia Villafuerte, a School of Engineering senior, said the event came to her attention after scrolling through her Facebook and noticing that a few of her friends had shown interest in a nearby event. After further investigation, she felt a street fair might be a fun thing to do.

“I would say it is great to go and see the local artists and get to experience the culture around school just to broaden your horizons and show support," she said. "Also, they usually have good street food so that's always a plus."

Christian Zapata is a School of Arts and Sciences junior. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.   

Christian Zapata

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