Open Streets 2017—now with more Minnehaha Avenue

Open Streets 2017—now with more Minnehaha AvenueBY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE

Just like last year, the Open Streets program is putting on eight events on eight separate Sundays through the summer. (Two events, Downtown and Lyndale, have occurred already.) The routes of a few of the events are different this year. Last year the event for East Lake Street was just Lake Street, from Elliot to 42nd Avenue. This year, on Sunday, July 23, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., it is Elliot Avenue to Minnehaha Avenue on Lake Street, then south on Minnehaha to the edge of Minnehaha Park—all closed to car, truck and bus traffic. This means some of the big participants from last year, including the eateries Merlins Rest, Peppers and Fries and the Hi-Lo Diner, will not be on the route, while a large swath of businesses along Minnehaha will be on it, some for the first time ever.
Of course, just like Peace Coffee and others participated last year even though they weren’t on the route, some of the easternmost Lake Street businesses may still be having special events. They just won’t have the street closed in front of them. For instance, Merlins Rest is featuring special music and dancing this year. Last year they also offered the quintessentially British summer drink, the Pimm’s Cup, and it is lip-smacking, so look for that to make a return engagement. One of the most quirky and fun events on Lake Street last year won’t be in evidence this year. We reported on Save the Shave and their valiant efforts to save the old Burma Shave building at Lake and 20th Ave from destruction. Sadly, the building was demolished in January of this year.
Open Streets has radical roots. It began over 40 years ago in Bogota Columbia, started by a young Columbian activist who had been educated and trained as an organizer in the U.S. in the 1960s. From Columbia, the idea spread throughout South and Central America and eventually came to the U.S. In some cities, the first Open Streets events, which are called Cyclovia, or “cycle-way” in Spanish-speaking countries, were fueled by bicycling and skating anarchists, and were not even sanctioned by the cities where they happened. But here in Minneapolis, they have become more and more a well-behaved product of the city government and biking and health charities, and are no longer particularly controversial. Maybe everyone but the most regressive climate-denier is finally on board with the agenda of fewer cars and less fossil fuel usage. In keeping with its goal of reducing car traffic all year round and not just for a day, Metro Transit became a sponsoring organization a couple of years back. And, like last year, you can get a free all-day bus pass by going to http://www.openstreetsmpls.org/lake_minnehaha and clicking on the link for a free ride. Other sponsoring organizations include AARP, Blue Cross-Blue Shield, Hennepin County Medical Center and Children’s Hospital. And of course, the original sponsor, Our Streets Mpls, which was formerly called the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition but has now expanded to include pedestrian advocacy and other kinds of human-powered transportation. Here are some statistics from last year’s Open Streets Mpls, and remember, the figures go up every year and are expected to again: 80,000 participants, up from 65.000 in 2015. Over 14 miles of streets closed in all eight events. East Lake was the longest route at 2.4 miles (and this year’s route for Lake + Minnehaha will be even longer!). Over 600 programmers (performers) and mini-sponsors (as they are calling organizational participants this year). The smallest event had 75 and the largest had 135.
What businesses and organizations are participating in 2017 Open Streets Lake + Minnehaha? The ones identified with a major offering, the sponsors and largest of the mini-sponsors. At the time of this writing they are Midtown Global Market (including many of the vendors inside), Tempo Afric, Mercado Central (with over a dozen vendors), In the Heart of the Beast, the Somali Museum, Ingebretsen’s, YWCA Midtown, Midtown Farmers Market, Humanize Hi-Lake, Minnehaha/Lake Liquors, Gandhi Mahal, the Hub Bike Co-op, Peace Coffee, the Howe Kitchen, Junket, Dumpling and Parkway Pizza. Also contributing are all the neighborhood organizations and Lake Street Council.
What can you expect at these spots? There will undoubtedly be live music at many points along the way, certainly outside and inside the Midtown Global Market, and probably with the addition of dancing in the street at Tempo Afric and Humanize Hi-Lake. All the food joints and of course the Farmers Market will tempt you with various kinds of delicious foods. Hopefully at least a couple of breweries will be represented: East Lake Craft Brewing for sure, and maybe Indeed will be back with their “aletruck.” Oh and that reminds me—food trucks! There will be loads of food trucks and they are not even telling ahead of time, so sure are they of our custom. So bring means of payment, because you are going to want some refreshment. There will also be the usual entertainments such as Aztec and African dancers, hula hoops and bouncy houses. Last year Ingebretsen’s had a selfie booth with goofy horned Viking helmets and nordic pigtail wigs. Maybe that will happen again. If not, and you want to get a great picture to remember this event by, head to Junket on Minnehaha. Their selfie-booth will include vintage props and costumes and artistic faux picture frames. In the Heart of the Beast will be providing a participatory art experience of some kind, and maybe, if we’re lucky, stilters and/or giant puppets. And of course there are lots of bike-related activities, since that’s what it’s all about—the Bicycle Alliance of MN has hosted bike rodeos in the past, and many organizations will offer fix-it clinics and other tips to enhance your bike riding experiences.
Part of the charm of Open Streets is that these businesses and organizations, which you may already be familiar with anyway, don’t always say beforehand what they’re going to do on the day, making it a wonderful chance to see your familiar neighborhood in a whole new light, and not only because the streets are open for your totally car-free enjoyment. So just explore— on foot, on rollerblades, on a segway, or a bike or a skateboard. Weave (gently and slowly) in and out among the strollers, kids and dogs, or sit in a conveniently placed chair on the street and sip your drink while you watch the world parade by. What a civilized way to live!

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