Updated 3:45 p.m. Tuesday
UPDATE: Next fair may be canceled: http://patch.com/A-jG28
Groups of kids on Coventry Road apparently wanted the party to last a little longer.
But according to some witnesses, the end of the fair turned violent.
The Coventry Street Arts Fair was scheduled from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, but it took police more than an hour to get crowds to leave.
Cleveland Heights City Council Member Cheryl Stephens was there at the end from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and she said at first police calmly tried to clear the streets for about 45 minutes.
“Of course they were kids, so they kept walking up and down the street, and it was 7 o’ clock before the street was cleared. To my recollection, there were about 20 (Cleveland Heights) police officers, and we called South Euclid and Shaker to provide additional assistance on Euclid Heights and Mayfield,” Stephens said. “There were teens that congregated at the P.E.A.C.E. Park, a large group of them, and there were a large number of teens who congregated at the two gas stations at the intersection of Mayfield and Coventry. And those kids did have to be dispersed."
She said a few kids threw punches as well, but that the situation was quickly controlled by officers.
“There were a couple of occasions where kids got into fights, but we did not have any wholesale brawling,” she said. “Any kids that came to blows were immediately separated by police officers. For the most part, kids behaved themselves.”
Police Chief Jeffrey Robertson said the department arrested 16 teenagers for fighting or drinking alcohol after the fair, and though it was difficult to determine, he estimates hundreds of kids congregated in the street.
Mary Dunbar, who was working at the Cleveland Heights Bicycle Coalition booth, called the events "upsetting."
"Until 4 p.m., the fair was wonderful, but by 6 p.m. the crowd was overwhelming teenagers who were there looking for excitement, not art. The racing up and down the street and one violent incident that I witnessed after the fair ended were entirely predictable, and our police dealt with situations swiftly. A woman vendor whose merchandise was scattered in the melee told me that she would never come back," she said.
One witness said he saw about 100 kids hanging out near the former Centrum Theater.
"I left right before the fights. They were congregating in groups. Trying to talk to girls. Loitering and being teenagers, it happens," said Wes McEnany via Twitter. "(The fair was) a great experience, but towards the end 100 plus teens congregated by the theatre with no discernible purpose."
Last year, the fair was scheduled from 6 p.m to 9 p.m. on Thursday nights throughout the summer. The event was moved to two Sunday afternoons to give vendors more time and to create a more "family-friendly" atmosphere, said Steve Presser, owner of Big Fun and member of the Coventry Village Special Improvement District, which organized the event.
“I have no clue if the kids thought it was going to go on longer or what,” O'Neil said, and added that often nearby police forces are called upon to help close down festivals.
But otherwise, she described the day as “beautiful,” and she said it wasn’t until after the fair that problems started.
“Everyone was having a great time, and as we got to the last hour more and more kids came, maybe not realizing it was going to end at 6,” she said. “I thought the police did an incredible job, and I thought it was wise on a Sunday night and call our sister cities to help us out.”
Stephens said you could barely walk up and down Coventry when it was near closing, but did not know an estimate for the crowd.
"The most overwhelming piece was just the sheer number of people on Coventry Road," she said.
Dunbar offered solutions for the next fair to avoid spoiling what was overall a successful afternoon, including charging admission.
"In downtown Cleveland, Tower City has a parental involvement program that requires youth under 18 to be accompanied by an adult, parent or legal guardian after 2:30 p.m., seven days a week. In general, our city must have more authority to deal with loitering and curfew violations," she said. "Importantly, this is an opportunity to engage a diverse group of parents to come together and devise solutions to deal with such disruptive behavior. With Coventry and other business districts planning events this summer, we must have policies and plans in place to avoid a repeat of what happened yesterday."
The next Coventry Street Arts Fair is scheduled for July 24, and more information is available on Coventry Village's website.
Calls made to local business owners were not immediately returned, but look for updates on this article soon.