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Published: Sunday, 8/19/2007

Festival-goers head to St. Paul's for fun, friendship, family

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Torey Meinen, right, spins cotton candy as Allie Missler ducks the fine, flying fibers of sugar at the UpTown Street Festival. Torey Meinen, right, spins cotton candy as Allie Missler ducks the fine, flying fibers of sugar at the UpTown Street Festival.
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St. Paul's United Methodist Church on Madison Avenue has roots in the downtown Toledo area that extend more than a century.

Yet 140 years after the church's establishment, most of its congregation hails from the suburbs and parts of the city outside downtown, particularly West Toledo, said its pastor, the Rev. Margaret Mallory. And its congregation is shrinking in size and getting older.

The church has about 115 members, although "a long time ago there were over 1,000," said Marjorie McQueary, the church's historian. Additionally, the resi-dential areas of Madison Avenue are home to many people of color, but at St. Paul's, "it's mostly a white congregation," Reverend Mallory said.

In an effort to expand the church's visibility to neighbors, members of the congregation are throwing a weekend-long neighborhood party. The UpTown Street Festival kicked off yesterday on 13th Street between Madison Avenue and Adams Street, and continues today from noon until 6 p.m.

Ashley Stewart, left, gets a helmet from 'Top-O the Balloon Man' as Ashley's sister, Aaliyah Hood, decides to mix her icy drink instead of watching her sister at the street festival. Ashley Stewart, left, gets a helmet from 'Top-O the Balloon Man' as Ashley's sister, Aaliyah Hood, decides to mix her icy drink instead of watching her sister at the street festival.
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Along with the barbecue and carnival food, children's games, craft vendors, and free health screenings, the festival features live music and the opportunity to meet members of Reverend Mallory's church.

"My vision for St. Paul's church is that it will be a church the whole community feels connected to," she said. "We are a church that's open to all folks."

St. Paul's traces its founding in Toledo to 1867. It has since been housed in at least five buildings in or around downtown, including its home at 1201 Madison Ave., built in 1987.

Several decades have passed since the church's congregation last reflected the racial and socioeconomic makeup of its geographic neighborhood, said Reverend Mallory, who traces this shift to the "white flight" movement from Toledo's downtown area. The church retained longtime members even after they moved, but failed to attract new ones who lived nearby.

Yesterday was the first of what the church hopes can become an annual festival. Reverend Mallory declined to say exactly how many festival-goers they expected. It appeared yesterday afternoon that organizers and vendors outnumbered visitors.

Nathaniel Archibeque, left, and Sophie Strawbridge expend some energy as they hop around in an outdoor inflatable toy, part of the festival fun for kids. The festival runs through 6 today. Nathaniel Archibeque, left, and Sophie Strawbridge expend some energy as they hop around in an outdoor inflatable toy, part of the festival fun for kids. The festival runs through 6 today.
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The church also handed out $5 coupons so that everyone in the neighborhood, regardless of income, could enjoy the event. All told, the festival cost more than $10,000 for the church to put on, Reverend Mallory said.

"It was more than we could afford, but we did it anyway," she said.

The festival was endorsed by the UpTown Association, whose goal is the revitalization and development of the 52-block UpTown arts and entertainment district. Board member Marty Lahey, who owns Manhattan's bar and restaurant on Adams, was serving $3 hamburgers and bratwurst yesterday afternoon under one festival tent.

Steam rose from ribs and corn on a grill nearby, and a jar of giant $1 pickles floated in green juice atop the counter of a corn dog booth. Carol Georgeson of East Toledo and her 9-year-old daughter, Cassandra, strolled along the row of children's games holding blue snow cones. "It's a nice little carnival," Mrs. Georgeson remarked. "Work all week, and it's something nice to do."

John Strawbridge watched as his daughter, Sophie, 5, and 2-year-old son, Sam, bounced around inside an inflatable jump house. A native of West Toledo, Mr. Strawbridge said he and his family are in the process of moving back to northwest Ohio from the Seattle area, where street festivals are common during warm months.

"All the neighborhoods had one basically. Some were big, some were small," Mr. Strawbridge said. "It's good to have the kids' stuff - it gets families down here."

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.


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