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Park in the Street

by Jerry Carter
Downtown Montpelier has always lacked a key ingredient for a strong downtown: a public park where people can sit, congregate, exercise and relax. While a long-term solution to this problem has yet to be found, the folks who make up the Downtown Improvement District (DID) are hoping to offer a short-term solution. In order to find this solution, they reached out to local event planner, Megan Schultz. Schultz’s magic bullet, for this seemingly unsolvable problem of limited green public space, was to take over the street.
On June 21, Park in the Street, a new citywide celebration, will take over State Street between Main and Elm Streets. As a way to celebrate the summer solstice and all that Montpelier has to offer, local merchants and residents will repurpose State Street parking spaces and, in place of cars, create fun and interactive spaces for people to come together and enjoy the season.
The Bridge caught up with Schultz to find out a little bit more about this, hopefully annual, event. Seated in the North Branch Café, sipping warm tea while a steady cool mist hovered over the event space in question, Schultz informed me about the details of the events with enthusiasm and excitement.
“I want it to be creative, engaging and fun,” said Shultz, “I feel that this is a great opportunity for them [retailers] to really harbor good long-term relationships with their customers.”
Retailers will get the chance to transform a parking space that sits outside their storefront this year for free. Schultz hopes draw in a larger number of participants this year by making it free. Once people see how great the event is, she hopes to be able to charge for the spaces in subsequent years to help fund the event. Attendees of the event will have the chance to vote for their favorite space, a process that she hopes will one day hold some prestige. “There will be a little bit of friendly competition here,” she said.
In addition to parking spaces that will be transformed into things as diverse as outdoor massage parlors, lounges and kids’ games, the event will also have a big stage with live music throughout the day, turning out great music to set the tone for the laid-back communal event. Artisan kiosks, public seating spaces and potted plants will line the center of the street.
Schultz hopes that these components will create a regional draw and bring people to Montpelier from all over. “But,” she said, “the whole idea is that I want it to really emphasize Montpelier and what it already has, and not necessarily bring more stuff in from outside.” She doesn’t want it to just be another generic festival, but rather a celebration unique to Montpelier.
Schultz draws a lot of influence in planning her events from the time that she spent living in Bozeman, Montana after graduating from Boston University. She felt that the regular community gatherings and celebrations that Bozeman had, both in the summer and in the heart of the ski season, gave the city its own flair and excitement that helped solidify its identity. Schultz sees the Park in the Street event as hopefully being the beginning of something like this.
Montpelier already boasts a vibrant and robust farmers’ market and if Park in the Street is successful, the city might explore making it a regular occurrence, closing down the section of State Street between Elm and Main to traffic. Schultz hopes that this is the case and is looking forward to how the event is received by the city.
The event is still in the early stages of planning and there is plenty of time for people to sign up for parking spaces. If you are interested contact Megan Schultz at megsevent@gmavt.net.