By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,188)
Twelve years ago, Portland’s First Friday Art Walk was a minor event on the cultural calendar of many in the City of Portland and surrounding communities. But it has grown significantly since its inception back then. In fact, its grown so much that some business owners would like to see changes made. One of those is Dan Hatt, owner of Emerald City, 564 Congress Street.
“It’s out of control,” Hatt said this evening as he looked out onto the narrow sidewalk in front of his shop. The sidewalk was packed with people – so packed that many were spilling over onto Congress Street to avoid the artists on the sidewalk selling their products. “The city can’t just allow people to set up wherever they want. It’s not fair to business owners. It should be regulated like the Farmers’ Market is. People have talked about this around here for a long time, but nothing gets done,” Hatt said as he geared up for a very busy night for First Friday Art Walk. Hatt welcomes all the business, but it needs to be better organized than it currently is. The weather was warm and the skies sunny which brought out many strollers. Hatt and other business owners think part of Congress Street should be blocked off to vehicular traffic and only pedesterian traffic should be permitted during this monthly event.
Dorinda Putnam, owner of the nearby Queen of Hats agrees that some oversight from the City is needed or failing that part of Congress Street should be closed to cars during First Friday Walk evening. “It’s only once a month,” she said. “It would make it easier for pedestrians to move about on the streets. First Friday gives my business a generous boost,” she said.
Stones & Stuff manager Whitney LeBlanc doesn’t object to vendors setting up their businesses where they sit fit. However, she would like to see Congress Street closed off every month, because her business is “up significantly” when that happens.
Several other business owners expressed similar views, but preferred to remain anonymous.