More Summer Music, Food and Fun Comes Downtown

By Beacon Staff

For outdoor-food-and-music lovers in Kalispell this summer, there is good news and bad news.

First, the bad news, which isn’t really that bad: The popular Depot Park Concert Series has cancelled five shows from its schedule due to budget cuts imposed on the city Parks and Recreation Department. But that still leaves 16 concerts this summer, with nine evening concerts beginning June 30, every Tuesday, and lunchtime concerts on Wednesdays beginning July 1.

Sponsorships are down this year from 2008, Recreation Superintendent Jennifer Young said, but the concert series still drew 63 sponsors this year, despite the economy.

“Obviously the community still really supports it,” she added.

Like previous years, the concerts will be free, with Young passing a donation jar around the crowd, and the musicians featured will run the gamut of styles from blues to Latin jazz to yodeling. Andre Floyd and the Mood Iguana will kick off the series.

Now, the good news, or what could perhaps be more accurately termed, the even better news: The Kalispell Business Improvement District (BID) and Downtown Association are hard at work on planned Thursday night street festivals, beginning July 2.

At a recent meeting, BID members were ironing out the details of the new weekly street parties, of which the name remains unclear, but could be called “Thursday!Fest” or “Alive at Five,” in the model of an event in Helena by that name.

Organizers plan to block off Third Street between First Avenue East and First Avenue West, leaving U.S. Highway 93 open. The festival would feature activities for children, local farmers selling produce and food, a beer garden, live music acts, and prepared food vendors. The event would run from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Melanie Cross, owner of Camas Creek Yarns, said the goal of the festivals was “the idea that people can come together and see their neighbors and meet new people,” as well as “getting people used to loving and enjoying and supporting their downtown, because they’re supporting their community.”

As of last week, Lorie Hafer, the market director hired by the BID to organize the event, was focused on lining up local farmers, coordinating musical acts, figuring where to secure local beer, working out insurance and obtaining necessary clearances from city departments like fire and police that must sign off on any street closures.

“Everything is extremely fast and furious,” Hafer said. “It’s a massive amount of information that needs to be gathered and sent out.”

But Mayor Pam Kennedy is on board with the idea and is helping to obtain the permits necessary to allow the weekly street festival to happen.

“The city of Kalispell is 100 percent behind the BID and KDA on this effort,” Kennedy said. “We will hopefully be able to see this as an event that is going to grow.”

At this stage of planning, little about the festivals is set in stone. The location could change, as well as what’s on offer. But the idea is gaining traction and volunteers are stepping forward to help out, with some local schools offering to lead some of the children’s activities, which could include face-painting, dance and martial arts demonstrations.

Organizers are determined to have the festival ready to go over the next month. So between Tuesday night’s Depot Park concerts, and the Thursday festivals a few blocks south, the public has no shortage of options this summer to get outside and get downtown.

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