News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 28, 2011

VIDEO: Public packs downtown for Block Party

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Thousands packed streets hot with sunshine Saturday for a downtown party sprawling block after block.

The inaugural Downtown Terre Haute Block Party kicked off at 1 p.m. with a parade along Wabash Avenue, and streams of people continued that path well into the evening.

Downtown Terre Haute, Inc. president Chris Pfaff reported attendance at the event had passed 2,000 by 4:30 p.m., with another 8 hours left to go. More than 75 vendors and artists lined the streets between Fourth and Ninth along Wabash, and nearly ever business on the route was open and participating, he said.

“Just anecdotally, the crowd’s been very pleasant,” he said, noting more than 100 residents signed up to receive the Downtown Terre Haute, Inc. e-newsletter as gift certificates were raffled off by Center City Apartments. “Overall, the crowd’s been very pleasant.”

And the crowd seemed constant, as the sidewalks and streets were full. Up on the western edge of the party, the Terre Haute North Vigo High School Counter Points performed on Stage 1, just off Fourth Street.

Meanwhile, Saratoga Restaurant owner George Azar was just across the street grilling gyros for spectators at his booth next to the smoothie bar operated by his business-neighbor The Coffee Grounds.

East along the street, the Terre Haute Academy of Dance performed “The Wizard of Oz” in the shade of Crossroads Plaza. Richard Willey said the school had about 40 of its 300 students out for the street-side performance.

“They’ve been practicing to do this for about three weeks,” he said as his wife Patti coordinated the show. “We brought a street a rendition for down here,” he said, explaining the group recently performed it on stage at Indiana State University.

Street performances dotted the zone all day, ranging from saxophone players to poets.

Walter Beck, an ISU graduate student, was among the numerous live poetry readers performing.

“There’s the bundle,” he said with a handful of printed poems.

Beck was decked out in a bright pink T-shirt, rainbow suspenders and a beret full of buttons as he walked barefoot about the party. He gave three performances throughout the day and said the response was positive overall, even if a few people simply stopped and stared.

“People are loving it,” he said. “They’re really digging it, man.”

Further east along the street, the Terre Haute Police Department hosted a live K-9 demonstration as officers Ryan Adamson and Todd Haller brought along their dogs, Diesel and Caron.

“We’re putting on a little demo for the public. We’re getting ready for the Olympics and kids love dogs,” Haller said in front of Old National Bank. The teams will head up to Denver, Ind., this week to compete against more than 200 departments as part of the annual K-9 Olympics. Meanwhile, their dogs sniffed out targets and jumped for tennis balls as a small crowd of children offered applause.

And there were plenty of children all day, noted Lynn Hughes, of the Terre Haute Children’s Museum.

The Children’s Museum had a full afternoon next to the Kid’s Zone, hosting a number of outdoor and indoor exhibits with groups ranging from the Vigo County Health Department to ISU’s Go Figure.

“I was excited to see the Street Fair reborn this way,” Hughes said, referencing the old Terre Haute Street Fairs of years past. Saturday’s event goes well with the ongoing revitalization of downtown, she said. Just under 300 visitors went into the museum Saturday afternoon, with more staying outside to participate in activities there such as the Terre Haute Children’s Choir’s “petting zoo” of instruments. “This whole area has been pretty well packed all day.”

Crowds kept flowing into the area all night as bands ranging from the National Crossroads Acoustic Bluegrass group played down the street from Octane and Four Days in Space. The night’s headliner, 500 Miles to Memphis, jammed from 8 p.m. to midnight.

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