News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 26, 2012

VIDEO: Thousands jam downtown for the annual Block Party

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Easy footsteps shuffled about downtown to swirling music, as thousands rocked around the block.

The Second Annual Downtown Block Party seemed to start earlier than the 1 p.m. kick off Saturday, as hundreds of volunteers filled Wabash Avenue throughout the morning. Visitors to the morning Downtown Farmers Market filled the lots near Ninth Street, spreading west throughout the day. Visitors continued to pour into the free event through midnight.

Ariane Marie King, operations coordinator for Downtown Terre Haute, Inc., had her yellow Downtown Block Party T-shirt blazing in the 90 degrees of sunshine that afternoon. Five stages worth of live music had listeners bobbing along from Fourth to Ninth street, and food seemed to fill every table from one end of the party to the other.

“I got here at 6:30 this morning and I’ll be probably be here until 3 a.m.,” King laughed, adding all reports seemed positive by the afternoon. “I would say it’s going amazing.”

With 120 vendors, as well as bands, clubs and organizations, the volunteers and workers alone numbered more than 1,000. Meanwhile King’s “Happiness Patrol” was out in force, a group of volunteers picking up trash and asking for suggestions for next year’s party.

And last year’s party was what first attracted Bart Smith to participate this year. The president of the Swinging Mates Square Dance Club had two dozen of the organization’s 75 members out in front of Commerce Plaza, decked out in their western-wear, boots, buckles and twirlable skirts. Visiting the event as a spectator last year gave him the idea of bringing his club to the event.

The local square dancers are “the oldest club in the state of Indiana, continuously running,”  with roots dating back to 1956, he said. Several of his members have been participating more than 20 years, and Smith said the group travels regularly to Illinois and Kentucky. “We have a lot of fun with this.”

The club offered a demonstration of their dancing as callers sang out instructions. Dancers twirled about in circles, switching partners and moving one to the other.

Meanwhile, Melissa Trout, an organizer for the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization, worked a booth providing information about donating organs for transfer.

“We’ve had a lot of people come by and show interest,” she said, remarking that the volume of passersby makes the event good for raising awareness.

Attendance numbers at a free event are always tough to figure, King said that afternoon. Crowds grew throughout the day, ebbing into the night as bands played along the street. Last year’s participation was estimated to be nearly 10,000, and King figured they’d reach or exceed that by midnight.

Lynn Hughes, executive director of the Terre Haute Children’s Museum, said 399 people had entered that facility by 5:15 p.m. Most of the group’s activities were outside in their Kids Zone, which featured face-painting, animals balloons and the Indianapolis Colts tent. But with temperatures above 90, many visitors welcomed the chance to hop into the air-conditioned museum for a break, she explained.

“It’s been a really good day,” she said.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or