A number of Gloucester's downtown businesses are gearing up for the fourth year of what has become a Main Street summer staple — the downtown block parties, with the first of 2011 set for Saturday, July 16.
A portion of Main Street will be closed to traffic and transformed into a pedestrian mall while the merchants and restaurants can offer an array of food, entertainment and specials for those seeking an evening of summer amusements.
In addition to the dining opportunities — both indoors and outdoors — one may find anything from dancing to craftworks along the street.
This year's series will celebrate Gloucester the third Saturday of each month from July through September, with the other two dates set for Aug. 20 and Sept. 17 and is free of charge. Rain dates will be the following Sunday. The block parties have run along Main Street, from Pleasant and Duncan streets to Washington Street.
The Block Party Committee has also announced a new addition with the hiring of its first artistic and coordinator with Valerie Marcley of Gloucester.
Marcley produces New England's leading so-called "fringe" performance festival, the Seacoast Fringe Festival in Portsmouth, N.H.
She has performed in the Edinburgh festival and is a board member of the Manchineel Chutney Theatre. Marcley also has worked in concert production with Boston jazz legend Fred Taylor; at the Opera House Theater in Stonington, Maine; the USVI Theater of St. John and at WFNX-FM and WBZ-AM, Boston.
Marcley said she is grateful for the support system of the founding organizers who infused their expertise, enthusiasm and dedication into the series and she looks forward to the work ahead.
"It's clear the series is a vital spark to the future of our unique downtown. These folks had an ideal vision that continues for Gloucester," said Marcley. "The Downtown Gloucester Block Party is an opportunity for our restaurants and businesses to be creative and strut their stuff. We urge participants to get imaginative with specials, contests and eye-catching displays to showcase their businesses and entice clientele."
Marcley is seeking talent, vendors and volunteers for the series.
Linn Parisi, a founding block party organizer, said the group believed it was time to take the next step and hire a coordinator
"It's time to have new blood, and new ideas, and we needed more help because of how it has grown," said Parisi. "It is a lot of work but it's a total joy to do when you see the results. When we did the first one, we didn't know what to expect. We wondered would 50 people even come."
But as the block parties evolved, residents and visitors descended on some of them by the thousands.
"With this kind of growth, we needed someone to be the official organizer and dedicate themselves to carrying it on," she said.
The Main Street merchants and restaurants pooled together some money to hire the coordinator, for insurance and to defray entertainment costs.
Those who wish to take part in the event, contact Marcley at: email@example.com.
Each Downtown Gloucester Block Party starts at 6 p.m.