Andrea and I spent a good part of today downtown, enjoying the annual Downtown Street Fair. This is the fourth time that the city has closed off Central Avenue between 15th and River Streets on the Saturday of Father's Day weekend, and each year it's been a relaxing way to spend Saturday, just wandering up and down Central, running into all kinds of people, seeing different displays, and trying out food from the various downtown restaurants.
Pretty much every downtown business had its doors wide open, some with displays right out on the street, others with Street Fair specials, and most businesses had more people in them than are usually seen on a Saturday. We checked out a new sports store in the block between 9th and 10th Streets, which specializes in equipment for extreme sports, like parasailing, but also will be selling sauna kits. It even has an area with a fireplace, couch, and magazines - perfect if you're shopping with your partner who doesn't share your fascination with sports equipment.
Many restaurants had food available outdoors, with tables and chairs on the sidewalk. Some fund-raising groups took advantage of the opportunity to have bake sales or raffles. The variety was wonderful.
Music was everywhere, with stages at each end, as well as a performer in front of City Hall, and various buskers, including a young fiddler, singers, and guitarists along the way. Once again, Morley Harrison and his stock company presented a couple of brief skits about famous people with a Prince Albert connection, which left people saying "I didn't know that!" Young people demonstrated their skill at skateboarding in a couple of places, the library had a book sale, the Farmer's Market was set up between 10th and 11th Streets instead of in the City Hall parking lot, there were booths selling everything from jewelry and pottery to Girl Guide cookies, there were pony rides and a small petting zoo where you could handle a corn snake or pet a ferret, you could take a tour of the TV station, little kids could bounce in a castle, have their face painted or get a balloon animal, there was a dunk tank, the police had a car that you could check out, the museum was offering free admission. Various business mascots were wandering about, and were involved in relay competitions in the Forest Centre courtyard. Balloons were everywhere. Most of this stuff was free, or at very reasonable cost.
The street was closed to cars, but there were lots of wheeled vehicles - bikes, skateboards, wheel chairs. It's funny how without cars, these other vehicles weren't a problem for pedestrians. This was good for people of all ages, and that's who was out there enjoying themselves. I noticed how, when there are lots of people downtown, nobody seems too bothered by the usual people who hang out downtown - they were there too, but didn't stand out. A friend of ours commented on what a great day it was, and how people just seemed really happy and relaxed - how a downtown should be.
Congratulations to Jayne Remenda of the Downtown Business Improvement District and her team of volunteers - they do a ton of work both organizing everything beforehand and then being there to make sure that things run smoothly - which they did.
How could things be better next year? The city could have a booth set up, handing out information about summer programs like the playground program or swimming lessons, or even just general city and tourist information. The city could also provide tables and chairs in Memorial Square for people to have lunch, or sit and listen to the musicians there. The Fire Department could have a truck there. Following the example of the TV station, we could have a mini Open Doors day - this is a day in some cities, including Saskatoon, where various buildings are open for tours. Focusing on the downtown area, we could have tours of City Hall, the Forest Centre, churches like Wesley, St. Paul's, and St. Alban's, the library, the TV station, the radio station, the police and fire stations. The Multi-cultural Centre could follow the example of Fiesta Manila, which periodically had demonstrations of Filipino dance, and provide cultural displays and food from other countries. Just some ideas that might add to the fun, and take advantage of the crowds.
If I was to make a list of ten great things that I like about Prince Albert, the Downtown Street Fair would be on that list - it shows off the downtown, it's fun, and it's accessible to everyone - what more could you ask for?
"Time you enjoy wasting was not wasted." - John Lennon