Tuesday, July 25, 2017 This Week's Paper

Transforming Downtown

// Downtown Block Party takes over Opera Alley Aug. 18

When the third annual Downtown Block Party returns to Opera Alley on Aug. 18, expect everything a solid street festival should have: food, music, games, beer garden, etc. – but this is no ordinary event. This free community festival, produced by Local Life and Downtown Tacoma Neighbors, has grown from a modest neighborhood party into a citywide event filled with interactive activities to bring a unique twist to traditional summer festivals.

“Downtown is already seen as a commerce center, but I wanted to see it celebrated as a holistic place that could help neighborhoods of the future recognize what they could look like,” event organizer Justin Mayfield said.

Local businesses have jumped on board as sponsors, but do not expect the Downtown Block Party to feature traditional booths and vendors. Instead, Mayfield hopes sponsors will spend time interacting with the crowds by organizing activities, games or demonstrations.

“People often get lost in the shuffle when they’re going through all the booths in a typical festival,” he said. “The goal is to break the pattern of day-to-day routines, to get the community thinking in a way that’s creative and collaborative. We want people to envision their own neighborhoods as the best they can be, and take whatever steps are necessary to make it that way.”

The Mix is sponsoring a beer garden, and Puget Sound Pizza is on board to sell pizza by the slice. Other than food and drinks, all activities and performances at the Downtown Block Party are free.

Musicians are set to provide improvised tunes during the day, before a DJ takes over for an end-of-the-night dance party. Even the musical performances are unique compared to traditional stage shows. “Music is a big part of this event, but the vibe does not focus on the typical consumer/producer relationship,” Mayfield added. “All the music is live improv for the first part of the day, and we just open it up and let them jam.”

Last year’s hit activities ranged from chalk drawing, foursquare games, children’s craft opportunities, demonstrations from local artists and a photo booth fully equipped with props. This year’s lineup of is expected to be bigger than ever, with more than 50 interactive activities. A few of the more unique highlights to look forward to this year include life-sized games of chess and Operation, collaborative art projects, hula hoop contests and more.

“We have so many fun, interactive art pieces that people can participate in, and we’re still adding activities,” Mayfield said.

The Downtown Block Party takes place Aug. 18 in Opera Alley from 3-10 p.m. For more information, visit