Mesta Festa returns to Mesta Park this Saturday 

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What started as a friendly gathering returns this year for its 20th anniversary as one of the metro’s largest festivals.

“The neighborhood association formed in the 1980s, and they wanted to do a home tour,” said Harry Meister, Mesta Park resident and one of Mesta Festa’s coordinators. “The block party was going to be a way to get neighbors out to meet each other and raise some funds to kick start the home tour.”

At first, the association blocked off portions of NW 17th Street and the party happened on residents’ front lawns. The fest grew every year, and Meister said they started inviting people from outside the neighborhood and moved the throng to Perle Mesta Park.

“We were blessed in the early years to have great sponsors,” Meister said.

Suds are an important component in Mesta Festa, so much so that Meister said the festival has always been known as a place to find good music, good food and good drinks. At the time the celebration moved to the park, a resident owned The Brew Shop.

“He brought home-brewed beer, and he encouraged others to do it also,” Meister said.

Jill DeLozier, event chairwoman, said the addition of wine has helped raise even more money to maintain the historic neighborhood.

“The funds go to several different projects,” DeLozier said. “We use the money for improvements in the neighborhood, lighting, street signs and the tree program.”

Mesta Park lost many of its trees to Dutch elm disease in the ’70s. To help restore the streetscape, the association offers folks professional tree planting at a reduced rate.

Funds also help with improvements and maintenance for Perle Mesta Park.

“Parks & Rec is really responsible for the park,” DeLozier said, “but we use the funds to supplement projects … beyond what [they] can do.”

Meister said residents have always been committed to the area.

“Many of the people who formed [the neighborhood association] were really urban pioneers,” he said.

When the major restoration of the community was happening ahead of improvements downtown, Meister said the neighbors adopted a “barn-raising” mentality.

“People would help their neighbors with wiring, infrastructure and other tasks that come with restoring historic homes,” he said. “Those who ignored the realtors telling people to move to Edmond for a good education for their kids, who understood how good Wilson Elementary and Classen SAS are, those people stayed and that pioneering mentality is still present in the young families we are now seeing.”

Mesta Festa is far too large now to pull off without coordinated volunteers and a committee to strategize. In fact, part of Meister’s job is to pull in sponsors, a task that is far easier these days.

DeLozier said the fun attracts all kinds of businesses, and this year, for the first time, shopping is part of Mesta Festa, as pop-up shops featuring local businesses, organizations and artists will be present.

“Local businesses see the festival as a chance to connect with [those] who live right around downtown,” DeLozier said.

New sponsors include Oak & Ore, The Pump Bar and Power House.

The jamboree is a family event, so there are activities for kids, including an introductory yoga class with Jodi Fritts, sack races, bouncy houses and a scavenger hunt. For adults, there is yoga, bocce, volleyball, giant Jenga and other activities, including a stationary bike race sponsored by Spokies.

DeLozier said food trucks will offer shaved ice, hot dogs, ramen and sliders. Access to booze is restricted to those over 21, and a wristband costs $20. Beer and wine are not allowed outside the beer garden area.

Live music begins at 10 a.m. Artists, including Rachel Brashear and The So Help Me’s, will play with the ACM@UCO band, and dancers from Studio 7 will also perform twice during the festival. A special appearance from the Thunder Drummers is scheduled at 12:30 p.m.

Uptown 23rd will sponsor a parklet on Lee Avenue, adjacent to the park, featuring artificial grass, tables and chairs. DeLozier said there will be 16 parklets set up in 11 areas for the festival on Saturday.

Mesta Festa is free and open to the public, with the exception of the beer and wine garden.

Print Headline: Perle party, Twenty years ago, one neighborhood learned how to throw a bash big enough for the whole city.

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