The Assistance League of Norman’s primary goal is to help children in need. Every year, through its Operation School Bell program, it provides 1,600 students with school clothes. The organization achieves its aims through donations from the community and each year revels in the chance to give something back. For more than 40 years, the Assistance League has given the gift of May Fair: A two-day festival at Andrews Park encompassing food, music and the arts.
“It’s amazing how many people don’t know who we are and what we do. We’ve been heavily involved in the community for 40 years,” May Fair 5K chair Laura Cooper said. “May Fair began at Andrews Park. We love the partnership with the park and the City of Norman and because the City of Norman has been so good to us, we, as the Assistance League feel like we should give back. We put in a pavilion two years ago and do what we can for the park.”
May Fair will take over Andrews Park from 9 a.m.-7 p.m., May 2 and 11 a.m. -5 p.m. May 3. The festival features original artisans, selling hand-made crafts and jewelry, food vendors and kid-friendly attractions like pony rides and free art activities lead by Firehouse Art Center instructors. Musical acts will kick off every hour to provide the audio backdrop for the outdoor celebration.
May Fair places special emphasis on children’s art education, with a children’s art contest, demonstrations by various artists, and the opportunity to practice artistic techniques.
“The entertainment is free. There’s a tent where the kids can come do free art work all day. There are so many fun free things for families to do. Of course, they can also buy art for their homes as well. It’s just a fun weekend and it’s a tradition in Norman that people always look forward to. There was one year where we took it to a one-day festival and the people in our community said ‘what are you doing?’ So, by popular demand we took it back to two days, because the community, for lack of a better way of putting it, threw a fit … It’s something the community likes to do. On Sunday, after church, people want to come out and eat the May Fair food, listen to music and walk around,” Cooper said.
This year’s May Fair will also feature a 5k run, adding a health-oriented element to the fun atmosphere. The run starts at 8:30 a.m. at Andrews Park, with day-of registration available.
“The 5k is something we added to bring something healthy to the event. May Fair is not a fundraiser, but every little penny will help, because we are solely funded by donations,” Cooper said. “If we can get anything extra, it goes straight to our programs.”
What began as a one-day show decades ago has blossomed into one of the most celebrated gems in Norman’s festival calendar.
“It’s always been considered a gift to the community,” May Fair co-chair Marilyn Craighead said. “We have put it on all these years and there are people who don’t know that the Assistance League is responsible. It really is a gift to the City of Norman and a rite of spring for Norman citizens. We have people coming now who came as children and who are bringing their kids. It’s such a great tradition.”
The festival is a nonprofit affair that usually manages to break even. It’s not about raising money. It’s more of a gift to the community, but finding ways to improve programs like Operation School Bell is always at the forefront of the organization’s mission. It’s the Assistance League, and fittingly, all it wants to do is help people. Sometimes, that means clothing school children. Sometimes it means beautifying Andrews Park. And sometimes, it means helping people have a good time.
Follow me @ TranscriptNTown