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On The Avenue

Block Street Block Party thrills, delights

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Photographs by J.T. Wampler

Crowds for the 2017 Block Street Block Party are expected to rival those from the 2016 event. The family-friendly festival features beer gardens, live music and vendors.

Local business woman and Block Street Block Party co-founder Hannah Withers says that the inspiration for the first party was a particularly grueling period of construction on Fayetteville's Block Avenue.

"When the city re-did our street in 2010, it was a massive project," Withers recalls. "Huge bulldozers, big jackhammers digging up the street. No parking. It was a big project. A lot of us on the street struggled. Our businesses weren't accessible, and it was loud and dirty. We wanted to celebrate that the job was done, our street was beautiful, and we were all still there."

FAQ

Block Street Block Party

WHEN — Noon until dark Sunday

WHERE — Block Avenue from Dickson Street to Mountain Street in Fayetteville

COST — Free

INFO — blockstreetbusiness.com

Withers says crowd estimates for that first celebration were between 6,000 and 8,000 people, a number that has only grown over the years.

"It's a pretty intense day," says Withers. "It's really been run by a few volunteers who are business people on the street, and a few friends of Block Street. You would be shocked at how few people we work with to handle 13,000. It shocks me. Every year. It's so packed full of so many people that I can feel that street move."

Trying to keep an event fresh for that many people can be difficult, according to Withers. It's not easy to predict what is going to be a crowd pleaser. Last year, a 200-foot zipline set up on the square did not attract the kind of attention from the crowd that she expected.

"I think I'm learning to let Block Party set its own pace and be authentic to itself," says Withers. But that doesn't mean there aren't some new features for 2017. 7 Hills Homeless Center will sponsor a dunk tank that will host Arkansas state senate members as its victims, and Circle of Life Hospice is planning a "hands-on bucket list on the street," says Withers.

"People can write on a chalkboard everything they want to do before they die," she says. "I love that people come to us and say, 'Hey! This is a weird Fayetteville thing! Let's get creative!"

Withers remains enthusiastic about organizing the event, despite the huge crowds and enormous work load.

"I love exposing all the nooks and crannies of this very unique, authentic place to all walks of life," she says. "And I love that so many people come out to celebrate our local culture."

-- Lara Hightower

lhightower@nwadg.com

NAN What's Up on 05/19/2017

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