A thunderstorm Saturday threatened to dampen the spirits of those aching for some fun, music, and dining at Gloucester’s first downtown block party.
But while the rain briefly created rivers in the streets, there was dancing in the streets shortly afterward at what proved to be a true downtown celebration,
"It was beautiful — the lights, the flowers, the uniqueness of all the restaurants and how they set up," said Donna Ardizzoni, who attended the event and was one of its participants as business manager of Circle Consulting Group.
Mayor Carolyn Kirk, who had supported the party through its planning stages and even enjoyed a drink at Jalape�±os Mexican Restaurant before mingling with the crowd, called the party "an expression of Gloucester's renaissance."
"We had no idea what to expect," said Vicki Van Ness, one of the organizers of the block party. "We were going to be happy if somebody showed up."
The opposite proved true.
Gloucester Police Lt. Joe Aiello — who told Van Ness' husband Peter that he had summoned the rain to clean up the street for the party — said that between 3,000 and 4,000 people walked Main Street during the event.
The streets were so full, said Ardizzoni, that people compared them to New York City's crowded streets. Restaurants were full inside and out, she and others noted.
Van Ness said that Ginger McKechnie, mother of the Blackburn Tavern's chef-owner, Jonathan, told him that the tavern that night had served almost double the number of customers that it usually does on a summer Saturday.
City Councilor Joe Ciolino, who owns the Weathervane on Main Street and took his wife Joan to eat at Jalape�±os, said that every restaurant had a one- to two-hour waiting list to get in.
The retailers, he mentioned, also greatly benefited. He had closed shop at 8 p.m. as he normally does, however, most of the businesses remained open to 11 p.m. when the party ended.
Throughout the night, Van Ness said he heard only two complaints. One was why the party was limited to the stretch of Main Street between Hancock and Washington Streets; the other came from residents or visitors asking why the city doesn't hold such an event every month, or even every week.
Councilor Gus Foote, who loved the party and said it should expand to include the rest of Main Street, aso quipped, "We should do this every other week."
The block party was organized by a group of local citizens, including City Councilor Jackie Hardy, Joe Ciarimataro, Erika Hansen, Janice Lufkin Shea, and the Van Nesses in collaboration with Blackburn Performing Arts.
The event was also sponsored and supported by Cape Ann Savings Bank, Noble Electric, Ringo and Cathy Tarr, Lee Bolton, Circle Consulting, OneTouchDeals.com, the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce and the city.
Michael Farrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org