Portland Festivals Are Good for Small Business

August 10, 2016 • 6 min read
Byron Beck

Byron Beck

PDX Correspondent

For small businesses, street fairs and local festivals are becoming one of the best ways to meet, greet, and make new customers. That’s because more and more folks are spending time (and money) at events. And if your business calls Portland home, you’re in luck! It just so happens that the summer and early fall here is home to plenty of fun, family-friendly Portland festivals that are great for marketing your small business.

Whether you’re launching a project or just wanting to introduce yourself to your neighbors, street fairs and festivals allow you to put a friendly face on your business, while potentially increasing revenue. According to an EventBrite survey, consumer spending on events has grown 70 percent since 1987. And if you’re looking for millennial customers, events is where you’ll find them. Another EventBrite report claims 80 percent of millennials went to at least three food or drink festivals in one year—and a whopping 99 percent of millennials said they would recommend a product they liked at a festival to family and friends.

How do local small businesses benefit from being involved in Portland festivals? They’re an easy way to get the word out about your company, and for your customers to get to know the folks behind the business. Nearly 70 percent of millennials believe attending events “makes them more connected to other people [and] the community.” Participating in local events shows people that you are part of that community, too. And that can make a big difference in receipts.

It may not surprise you to learn that bars and restaurants tend to benefit most from festivals. But business owners of all stripes “who find creative ways to market products or services to event attendees often generate more revenue” during festivals than those who don’t. A recent study of a monthly Friday-night street fair in Oakland, California, revealed that businesses “consistently” made more money on event nights than non-event Fridays. In fact, some owners reported increases of as much as 100 to 250 percent. For some tips on creative festival marketing, check out our post Summer Festivals are Small Business Opportunities.

Furthermore, street fairs are a great window into the community you service. If you network, get social, and take notes, you’ll learn a lot about who your customers are and what they want. Speaking of notes, have an email signup list or some other way of getting contact information from those who would like to know more about your business, and make sure to follow up with them.

How do you reap the benefits of local events like Portland festivals? First, and perhaps most importantly, by being a participant. Street fair booths are an easy, cost-effective and efficient way to interact with the public. Interested in planning your own local event? Neighborhood Event Permits: Conquer the Bureaucracy! can help.

Portland festivals by neighborhood

Here are seven fun Portland festivals happening in local neighborhoods in the coming weeks:

Northeast/Downtown & Beyond

Alberta Street Fair

August 13, 2016

The 19th Annual Alberta Street Fair, presented by Legacy-GoHealth Urgent Care, showcases the best of the community: an eclectic mix of activities and events that could only be found on Alberta Street. The annual event focuses on local products, artists, crafts, and foods; their site even has a Shop Local page and business directory. The fair includes an 11am kids’ parade, a kids’ corner, a beer garden, and three stages of entertainment. And it’s one of the best ways to meet your neighbors and fellow Portlanders. FREE!

Time-Based Art Festival

September 8-18, 2016

Various Portland locations, with several events in Northeast Portland

What keeps Portland so Portland is a willingness to embrace the unique…okay, weird. The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) offers one of the best unique, must-see cultural attractions, the world-acclaimed Time-Based Art (TBA) Festival. Each year TBA showcases artists from around the world presenting some of the best, the brightest, and, yes, the most unusual contemporary performance and visual art. From September 8–18 PICA’s TBA Festival will offer up contemporary art projects that bring artists and audiences together, through live performances, music, film screenings, workshops, talks, and visual art installations—activating the city with the art of our time. The 14th edition of TBA features artists from near and far that urgently reflect our cultural moment. Global in scope, TBA exposes artists from regions not often presented in the US, with projects hailing from Lebanon, Bulgaria, South Korea, France, Germany, and beyond.


Belmont Street Fair

September 10, 2016

The Belmont Street Fair is a family-friendly event with live music, art, entertainment, shopping, kids’ activities, food vendors, and beer gardens on Southeast Belmont Street from 33rd to 39th Avenues. The Belmont Area Business Association, a volunteer group of business and property owners, work together to improve and promote the general business welfare of the Belmont Area. Boundaries include SE Belmont Streets to SE Stark between SE 12th and SE 60th Avenues and nearby businesses that wish to participate. FREE!

Portland street fair
Courtesy eyeliam, Wikimedia Commons

Hawthorne Street Fair

August 28, 2016

The always-vibrant Hawthorne Street Fair features over 100 small businesses who are dedicated to their part of Portland. Not only will this street fair feature unique vendors available only in this neighborhood, but there will also be family activities, beer gardens, and live music on the sidewalks of SE Hawthorne Blvd., mostly from 31st to 41st. FREE!

Northwest/Pearl District

Art in the Pearl

September 3 – 5, 2016

One of the longest running of the Portland festivals, Art in the Pearl is celebrating its 19th year, featuring 100 booths of fine art, as well as music, food, and hands-on art activities along NW 8th Avenue in the Pearl District’s North Park Blocks. A quick walk from both Old Town/Chinatown as well as Northwest’s Nob Hill district, Art in the Pearl includes artists showing and selling work ranging from fine wooden furniture to oil paintings to photography, glass, clay, metal, jewelry, and much more. FREE!

Downtown, Southwest & Beyond

feast portland
courtesy of Mack Male, Flickr

FEAST Portland

September 15-18, 2016

Various Portland locations

”Bon Appétit Presents Feast Portland: A Celebration of Oregon Bounty” is quite a mouthful. Most locals just refer to it as FEAST. Now in its fifth year, this is the best place in the Northwest to taste the aforementioned bounty, including some from local purveyors of wine, beer, cheese, and fine cooking. It’s also a chance to hear culinary stars, as well as local restaurant and business owners, speak on stage. You can even take cooking classes. This year, alongside such stellar events as Smoked, the Sandwich Invitational and the Grand Tasting, the good folks at FEAST have added three new events, a Cocktail Crawl, a hands-on look inside the Bon Appétit Kitchen, and a drink panel pitting wine against beer…and pssst…try to get an invite to one of the very cool after-parties. FEAST is fun!

North Portland

Polish Festival

September 17-18, 2016

The Polish festival is an event for families and singles, adults and children, music lovers, concert-goers, dance enthusiasts, and especially food and imported beer lovers. Polka lovers will enjoy the nonstop stage performances, including a few dance groups and music bands, as well as a polka contest on Saturday and Sunday. One of the weekend’s highlights will be a giant street dance, and even more delicious Polish food and beer. The event is held on N. Failing Street between the two historic buildings of the Polish Library, incorporated in 1911, and St. Stanislaus Church, built in 1907. FREE!

Photo courtesy Tony Webster [CC BY 2.0], Wikimedia Commons

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