Downtown Block Party Movie Poster, originally uploaded by captjoe06.
Coverage from the Gloucester Daily Times-
Saturday is Block Party time on Main Street
By Ray Lamont
Gloucester’s 2009 downtown Block Parties, pushed back a month by the rains of June, finally kick off this Saturday, bringing outdoor dining, music and arts presentations, Saturday night shopping and — business owners hope — thousands of locals and visitors to five blocks of Main Street, from Pleasant to Washington streets.
The celebration, coordinated by the Downtown Gloucester business group and sponsored by Rockport National Bank, aims to build upon the two Block Parties held last year, which were held on Saturdays in August and October and whose success even seemed to even surprise organizers.
“After the first one, we heard everybody — businesses, people on the street, everybody — asking us ‘Please, do another one,'” said lobster buyer and distributor Joe Ciaramitaro, who’s also well-known as leader of the popular blog goodmorninggloucester.com. “We got lucky (with the weather) in October, and, again, it brought out so much spirit.”
Saturday’s Block Party will once again feature al fresco dining outside the Main Street restaurants, live music and other entertainment presentations outside Elliot’s at the Blackburn and along Main Street near Center Street.
The party will also give one section of Main Street something of a new look for the night. Ciaramitaro, who has become one of the driving forces behind the event along with Cormorant Shop proprietor Janice Lufkin Shea, noted that this week’s Block Party is being coordinated with the seARTS organization, and artists will be displaying their work along the Cape Ann Savings Bank construction area.
Saturday’s Block Party, slated to run from 6 to 11 p.m., actually marks the first of three such events this year, with others to follow onAug. 15 and Sept. 19. Initial plans called for four, but the opener on June 21 was called off because of rain and the forecast for heavy storms, and with St. Peter’s Fiesta running the following week, could not be rescheduled.
This week’s Block Party has a rain date; the following Saturday, July 25, if necessary. But Saturday’s forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the high 70s and a 20 percent chance of rain. Organizers note that means an 80 percent chance there will be no precipitation.
Saturday’s arts and media presentations will include showings of award-winning film documentary “The Greasy Pole” (see related story), and live music performed by local bands, singers and songwriters.
One of the party centerpieces remains the outdoor dining, which gives diners and restaurateurs alike the chance to enjoy a European sidewalk cafe atmosphere in the heart of America’s oldest seaport. Elliott’s at The Blackburn, Valentino’s Pizzeria, La Trattoria and Pizzeria, Dog Bar, JalapeÃ±os, Passports, Espresso and Ambie’s Sausage Stand have all been granted expanded site licenses for the night to set up outside dining areas.
“We’re putting up a European-style fence (around the outdoor tables),” said Peter Cusenza of La Trattoria in Main Street’s West End. “I want to it look very Italian.”
“I can’t wait,” he added. “I think it’s going to be great. These block parties generates so much happiness. It means more people, more tourists — and more money — for everyone.”
While the Block Parties deign to attract some tourists — the first one last year was scheduled to coincide with a cruise ship visit — Ciaramitaro noted that last year’s events primarily drew thousands of local residents.
“I think these can take our whole city to a whole new level,” he said. “It’s local people seeing old and new friends, seeing their downtown, walking the streets.”
He added that some in the organizing Downtown Gloucester group want to see the idea expanded next year, perhaps even to converting Main Street into a pedestrian area on summer weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Even with the lineup of musicians, street performers and other entertainers, he said, there is no question what provides the biggest draw.
“It’s our downtown itself,” he said. “It’s the beauty, the history, the energy of it. Our downtown is the star.”