BY STEPHANIE FOX
Each year, thousands of people flock to Open Streets events in Minneapolis. During these city celebrations, streets are closed to automobile traffic for blocks and people walk, bike and even skate, visiting booths and businesses along the way.
But then, COVID-19 happened. In non-pandemic years, there are seven Open Streets in various neighborhoods from North to South Minneapolis. Last year, all the events were canceled and this summer, many Open Streets, planned for the summer, ended up canceled when COVID and the Delta variety reappeared in earnest.
This year, there are only three events, moved from the middle of the summer to fall. Lyndale Open Streets is now scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 10. And while this year’s event will be smaller, a number of neighborhood businesses, nonprofits and vendors have signed up, eager to reestablish a presence in their neighborhoods.
“We moved it to October. We wanted more time to prepare. Canceling the other events was a difficult decision, but we have the ability to make some happen,” said Luis Mendoza, Open Streets Communications Specialist. “As far as the vendors in general, we have seen good feedback about canceling some of the event. People were upset but understanding.
“We are really excited to bring these events back after a difficult year. It’s an important way to bring the community back together. We were open to feedback from those who have had a presence in the past.”
Right now (early September) 100 vendors, including 20 food vendors, have signed up and more are expected to attend. “This is an outdoor event, and we will have solid guidelines giving people access to masks and sanitizing stations,” Mendoza stressed.
“We won’t know for sure which organizations are fully confirmed until we create the map at the end of September,” he said.
Mendoza said that those attending should also expect opportunities to meet with community organizations, political candidates and political organizations such as Fair Vote Minnesota, a group supporting ranked choice voting. Along with those, some of the businesses and organizations that will be there to meet and greet include the following to have booths:
Hub Bicycle Co-Op
This worker-owned bicycle shop has two full-service Twin Cities shops, one in the Longfellow neighborhood. The shop will have a table with people to answer bike-related questions. They will offer free troubleshooting and minor repairs as well as education programs covering subjects such as how to fix a flat tire, winter biking and wheel bearing overhaul.
“I love open streets,” said Lisa Olson, one of Hub’s worker-owners and a service technician. “It’s nice to be able to walk or ride a couple of miles and stop by businesses you might not have known are there without having to worry about the dangers of traffic.” And, she said, October is her favorite month to ride. “It’s pretty gorgeous in October.”
Urban Tails Pet Supply
“Urban Tails Pet Supply is an independently owned local pet supply store specializing in holistic solutions for pets of the Twin Cities,” said Jess Swartout. During the pandemic, many of the store’s customers took advantage of their free next-day delivery, but Swartout said she is looking forward to meeting her canine customers face to face once again.
Most years, when this event is held in the hot summer, the Urban Tails booth treats canine customers with doggie ice cream cups. “But, with it potentially being chillier out, we’ll be bringing more longer-lasting, shelf-stable treats to sell for dogs.” And, she said, the booth will have some Halloween products as well.
“We will be selling an assortment of small treats and toys for cats and dogs and will be giving away freebies at the booth. We’re very excited to attend this year.”
One of 20 food booths, Lago Tacos is a regular attendee at Lyndale Open Streets. The restaurant serves fresh-style Mexican foods and this year they will again be serving street tacos, burritos and elote (Mexican-style grilled corn on the cob) to hungry crowds from their streetside booth just outside their sit-down restaurant.
“I think it was smart that they held out to see what we were trending towards as far as the pandemic is concerned,” said Emily Mendoza, the restaurant’s assistant general manager. “I am sad it didn’t happen last year, but I understand why. I’ll be there this year. It’s a fun activity and an outside event so it’s relatively safe.”
Pillsbury United Communities
This nonprofit has been serving the Twin Cities community for 140 years. It first opened in 1879 as a settlement house and today helps connect thousands of people each year through a united system of programs and neighborhood centers.
“We will have two spots at Lyndale Open Streets, with staff available to talk about the services we have available. We can help people get access to government funds, health resources, food and vaccine equities,” said Kim Pepper, the organization’s chief engagement officer. “And we will have a team there to register people to vote.”
A radio DJ from community radio station KRSM, based in the Phillips neighborhood, will be at the booth, playing music, “bringing fun to all of it,” she said.
“We’ll also have some fun giveaways. We are all looking forward to connecting to the community after a terribly difficult year.”
The Minnesota Department of Health
The Minnesota Department of Health will be at Lyndale Open Streets with their vaccine bus, offering free vaccines to anyone who wants or needs one. No ID or insurance is necessary to get a first or second dose.
Lyndale Open Streets is scheduled for Oct. 10 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Lyndale Avenue will be closed to automobile traffic from 22nd Street to 54th Street, with bikes, skates, skateboards and pedestrians encouraged to attend. Polite dogs on leashes are welcome.