Dining With Denise Neil

Mega block party will shut down four miles of Douglas this weekend

You won’t be able to drive on four miles of Douglas in downtown Wichita on Sunday afternoon.

But you will be able to bike, walk, dance, run, eat and strike a yoga pose – right in the middle of the street.

A new event by Wichita Park & Recreation and the Wichita Park Foundation called Open Streets ICT will close down Douglas from Clifton Square on the east end to just west of Delano on the west end. It’s intended to promote healthy living – particularly biking and walking – and will feature five “activity hubs” at well-known spots along the route.

The event will last from noon to 4 p.m., but the street will be closed down from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The idea came about when Wichita Park & Recreation Director Troy Houtman attended a conference that included presentations on Open Streets events that are happening all over the United States. Big cities routinely close down stretches of main roads – sometimes up to 10 miles at a time – to put on Open Streets parties. In Los Angeles and Portland, he said, events happen eight times a year. In Bogota, Colombia, they happen every Sunday.

“So we got a whole handbook on how to do it and have been planning this event for two years,” he said.

Houtman got several local sponsors on board, including the Wichita Community Foundation, which put a $20,000 grant toward the project. His goal, he said, is to build on Sunday’s event and do it again next year.

“This first year is going to be interesting,” Houtman said. “After the first year, people are going to get it, and then we can mold it a little more for Wichita.”

On Sunday, the five “activity hubs” will each have their own events planned. They are:

College Hill hub, near Clifton Square between Blessed Sacrament’s baseball field and College Hill park: The theme at this stop will be outdoor fun, and it will feature a pop-up playground, inflatables, sidewalk chalk, kid-friendly music and a Zumba demo.

East High hub: The theme at this stop will be community, and the East High faculty and students will offer games and other activities.

Union Station hub: This one will have a “dance party” theme and will feature a square dancing demonstration, snow cones (both adult and kid style), live music and outdoor activities by the YMCA.

Kennedy Plaza hub: This stop is considered the main stage, and it’s right in front of Century II and will be the site of the opening ceremony at noon followed by a bike parade. It’ll also have games like mini golf and live music from three different bands, including Kill Vargas at 3 p.m.

West End hub: This hub will be at 1724 W. Douglas and will have a “block party” theme. It will have family events like carnival games, inflatables, arts and crafts, relay races, martial arts and self defense demonstrations and hot dogs and hamburgers from the Shamrock.

Food trucks also will be set up at various stops, and several businesses along the route will be participating with samples, activities and more. Even some businesses that are usually closed on Sundays are opening so they can be a part of it.

“This is all about bicycling and getting people active and moving and healthy,” Houtman said. “It’s a lot of things to a lot of different people.”

Open Streets ICT

What: A giant block party meant to promote bicycling and wellness that will close down 4.1 miles of Douglas Avenue to traffic from Roosevelt Street in College Hill to Glenn Street in Delano.

Activities: The event will feature five “activity hubs” plus samples and activities offered by businesses along the route.

When: The event is from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, but Douglas will be closed from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Some intersections will remain open along the 4.1 mile route to allow for north and south bound traffic to cross Douglas. They are: Glenn, Seneca, McLean, Broadway, Washington, Hydraulic, Grove, Hillside, Roosevelt and Circle Drive.

Admission: Free

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