Porcupines, dancers, musicians fill Uptown during Open Streets

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WATERLOO — Uptown Waterloo was transformed Sunday afternoon, with giant rubber balls bouncing down the streets, belly dancers shimmying, roosters crowing, a full 10-piece band belting out jazz classics in one area while rockers played guitar riffs in another.

It was Open Streets Waterloo, a celebration of community that invites everyone to get out and spill onto King Street in Uptown Waterloo. From 1 to 5 p.m., it closed King Street from William Street north to Bridgeport Road, allowing cyclists, pedestrians, dog walkers and skateboarders to take over the downtown.

Bill and Freda Bruner had simply planned to drop into the public library, when they discovered it was closed and the street was wide open.


“So we just parked the car and started wandering around. There were a couple of classical guitars playing over by the coffee shop,” Bill said. “I sat down and listened to them, and really enjoyed that.


“And then you’ve got a porcupine over here,” he exclaimed, gesturing to a nearby petting zoo. “I’ve never seen one of those before. It’s great. It’s the way things should be downtown.”


Derek Hergott of Waterloo was sporting an elegant cardboard tie, bedecked with glitter and foamie stickers and tied around his neck with a piece of string. He and his family have always wanted to attend an Open Streets event, and their busy family schedule allowed it this weekend, as they took to King Street as a way to celebrate Father’s Day.

Events like Open Streets allow parents to really get their kids to understand that there are plenty of ways to have fun that don’t involve getting into a car, Hergott said.


“I like the fact that it’s a do-it-yourself street festival,” with all kinds of community groups and businesses setting up booths and activities, said Darcy Casselman of Waterloo.


There was plenty to do all along the streets, with a wide variety of food vendors, sales booths selling everything from massages to original art and gourmet condiments, face painting, a magic show, hula hoop competitions and storytelling booths.

“It’s open, it’s accessible. I like to kind of just wander around, get some food,” Casselman said. “It’s serendipity: you don’t know what you’ll find.”

Casselman said it’s great to see a vibrant downtown where people are enjoying the public space. “I’m from Belleville, and their downtown is dead, dead, dead.”

Joscelyn Guindon, bedecked in sequins and scarlet fringes, helped liven up the festival with her belly dancing demonstrations. She said events like Open Streets are fundamental to building community, making it easier for people to mix and mingle, try something new, talk to others.

It also wasn’t too bad for her belly-dancing lessons. “People are signing up, people are chatting and asking for information, people are just stopping and dancing with me, which is also fun,” she said.


Seven-year-old Leslie Obbard got his hands dirty at the potter’s wheel demonstration. “It’s pretty fun,” he said after he’d washed the clay from his fingers. “You can make curves and swirls. I’m going to work in pottery when I grow up. It’s going to be awesome.”

Tim Reed of Waterloo worried that the construction of a light rail transit route right through King Street would kill the vibrancy of a number of community events, from Open Streets and the August buskers’ festival to the Santa Claus parade.

“So much goes on here,” he said. “This is the first public square I’ve ever seen in my life that works, and they’re going to put a rail line beside it?”

The Father’s Day event was the first of four events this summer as Open Streets celebrates its fourth anniversary. Other Open Streets events are set for July 19 (an evening event, in conjunction with the Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival), Aug. 3 and Sept. 14. It’s the fourth year for the popular events, which began as Car Free Sundays but changed its name in its second year.



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