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History of Birmingham Festival

August 13, 2013

Born of events which took place in our community more than three decades ago, the Birmingham Ethnic Festival has come to be known as a Sunday in the Old Country. Over the years, thousands have come on this third Sunday of August to share in the ethnic traditions, the diverse culture and the heritage for which Birmingham is known. With the changing times and popularity of the Festival, we have expanded the Festival to include the entire 3rd weekend in August.

Several sets of railroad tracks on Consaul Street were an ongoing source of frustration for motorists traveling between Toledo, Oregon and points east. Traffic is often stopped at these crossings by the trains. Through the 1950s and 1960s the Birmingham community sought to have a roadway built over the tracks, but to no avail.

When the city finally agreed to construct the overpass, plans called for a four lane bridge and the eventual widening of Consaul Street to four lanes as well. This construction would have eliminated every building on one side of Consual Street. The heart of our community would have been torn from us. The Birmingham Neighborhood Coalition
(B.N.C.) was organized in April of 1974 in response to this threat of destruction. Organizations representing all segments of the community came together to fight the widening of Consaul Street and subsequently to address other issues in the neighborhood.

In the 39 years since the founding of the B.N.C., the people of Birmingham have successfully addressed a wide range of problems. We are again fighting for our neighborhood through the Birmingham Development Corporation to minimize the impact of the expansion of the Collins Water Treatment Plant and to preserve as many homes near Collins Park as possible.

The first Birmingham Ethnic Festival took place on August 17, 1974. The first festival planning committee was chaired by Paul G. Hayden and included nearly 40 people, representing almost every church and organization within the neighborhood. From the first Festival Book we read the goals of this annual event as written by the founders:
Our intention is to point to the spirit of the original ethnic settlers in Birmingham. Their cooperation and unity of purpose was the foundation for the building of this community.

The motivating purpose of the early settlers was their faith in the American ideal of success being equally available to all who are willing to work toward that end.
The Birmingham Ethnic Festival is an outgrowth of pride and enthusiasm of the Birmingham community, and its desire to share with greater Toledo a taste of the ethnic flavor which has so permeated the neighborhood. This pride has been a factor of great cohesiveness, sustaining the neighborhood through many threats to its very existence.
The Birmingham neighborhood has shown a concerted and serious attention to the betterment of the community, to the projects of beautification, renovation and preservation. This festival seeks, through it’s activities, to provide a means whereby the aspirations of the Birmingham community may be realized as fully as possible in the future.

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