ROCKLAND — “In regards to the retail businesses on Main Street, the hours between 5 and 8 p.m. on First Friday Art Walks – those are the busiest days that we ever see in our store over the course of the summer,” said Rockland City Councilor Ben Dorr and co-owner of Curator. “The trucks that I can hear on Main Street aren’t coming into my store. It’s the people that are walking up and down the street.”
On Monday, June 14, Council will vote on two requests to close Main Street – for one evening each – in the summer of 2021, both of which coincide with unique 2021 challenges, events, and perspectives.
First Friday Art Walks:
“In years past, I always felt like June, July, August, September art walks – the streets should be closed,” said Dorr, who offered to sponsor the ordinance. “It draws an enormous amount of people. It would be a great thing to do on a regular basis.”
During the June 7 agenda-setting meeting, Farnsworth Museum’s David Troup, along with Rockland Main Street, Inc’s David Goegel, presented the request for a Friday, July 2 street closure between 5 and 8 p.m.
The first First Friday Art Walk, July 2, coincides with Rockland’s Bicentennial Celebration, windjammer birthday party, and fireworks the same evening in nearby Harbor Park.
“The Farnsworth really hopes that the First Friday event on July 2 would be the perfect occasion for the entire community to come together, and to celebrate one of the major assets of our wonderful city, which is the recognition of the Arts Capital of Maine,” said Troup.
Troup said that in past years, First Friday events drew approximately 1,000 people into the Farnsworth. That number represents only the people who stepped into the Museum on those evenings, as opposed to those who attended the Walk, but bypassed the Farnsworth.
The event would be far safer if the street were closed to traffic, according to Troup. Along with sidewalk congestion, the extra space would also allow more comfort for people concerned about Covid-19 risks.
Pub Crawl at the Blues Festival
A large number of attendees offers opportunity for healthy community engagement. As Paul Benjamin came before Council to request a permit to close Main Street for the Friday evening of the 2021 North Atlantic Blues Festival, he also re-suggested to City officials his idea of bringing in a CDC Covid-19 vaccination vehicle to the crawl in order to provide free vaccinations.
“Sometimes there are 3-4,000 people on Main Street during the pub crawl,” said Benjamin. “It would be nice for the City to offer free vaccinations.”
According to Mayor Ed Glaser, the City has already contacted representatives of the CDC and Knox County EMA regarding Benjamin’s idea.
“It looks like it’s going to happen,” said Glaser, who then jested: “The only problem I have is, this is a pub crawl. We don’t want to have a sign that says Free Shots.”
Glaser said Rockland has been looking for a way to extend the inoculations to as many people in Rockland, and in the area, as they can.
“I think this is a great first step,” he said. “So, thank you.”
Benjamin does not ask for a fee waiver. He pays all of the bills, he said. The pub crawl is his way of giving back to the people of Rockland, and to those who cannot afford a Blues Festival ticket; to allow them to enjoy some free music and entertainment.
Benjamin says the event has run very well over the past 20 years, and that there’s no reason why it won’t run the same way again this year.
He is proposing to close Main Street between Park Street and Talbot. The Talbot side is slightly farther north than the Glover’s Passage location often used in other Main Street closures. This allows the band performing at the north side of the closure to spread out in front of Fiore.
The Blues Festival is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, July 10 - 11, 2021
Arguments regarding closures:
– “Closing northbound traffic on a Friday evening, of the Fourth of July weekend, from 5 – 8 p.m., and then on the application it says it won’t affect retail businesses,” said Councilor Sarah Austin. “I find that a little bit surprising given the pushback we had about closing Main Street or even reducing lane usage on Main Street over the course of the summer.”
In response: restaurants and retailers will find a benefit to having more people coming downtown, said Troup. Event access will allow people to feel more comfortable wandering in and out of businesses.
Detour signs could be posted for those who want to bypass the area by following Broadway, suggested Councilor Louise McLellan-Ruf.
–Closures have costs, according to Glaser. A four-hour event (which is actually 5 hours due to set up and teardown) would require four police officers. A permit fee for these parameters is estimated at $800. The Art Walk closure permit will be funded by the Farnsworth. The pub crawl permit is funded by the Blues Festival.
–Why close for these events but not Summer Solstice? Asked Austin. Goegel’s response: The Solstice events take many months to prepare. Back in February and March, there was no way of knowing how restrictions would be eased by June. Instead, the Summer Solstice has planned a day of concerts in Harbor Park.
Reach Sarah Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org