"This is your party, not some organizer's party," says Valerie Marcley, "so if you've got any ideas, we'd love to hear them."
Marcley is talking about plans for Gloucester's upcoming 2012 Block Party season, which, as of now, consists of three confirmed dates — Saturday, July 21; Saturday, Aug. 18; and Saturday, Sept. 15 — and a wide open slate.
It will be the fifth season for the popular Main Street series, hosted by a number of downtown merchants, and the second year that Marcley will be coordinating them.
Recruited last summer by Latitude 43 and Alchemy restaurateur Mark McDonough, Marcley scored high marks, not just for her management skills but for bringing fresh thinking and boundless energy to the table — for, in effect, becoming "the life of the party," or all three of them.
"The best thing I did," McDonough told the Times at the end of last summer's hugely successful season, "was to hire Valerie (Marcley) as coordinator. She really pulled it all together."
Not so, says Marcley, laughing. Quick to give others credit, she reels off the names of everyone else — starting with McDonough — without whom, she says, she could "never have done it."
As for this year, "Well, we'll really start jammin' on planning in May," says Marcley, slipping into the jazz parlance she acquired as a veteran producer and well-known figure on Boston's music concert circuit.
Last summer, that professional music expertise was much in evidence on five stages, logistically positioned to give the music talent playing to the crowds plenty of acoustical space.
"The five stages were a big hit," says Marcley. "They really raised the crowds' energy level, kept things moving. and set the mood for dining and shopping."
The multiple performance stages will definitely be back, she confirms — as will the popular outdoor dining options, dancing in the streets, the "Kids' Town" area with all its entertainments, and shops open late for local and visiting consumers.
Also, Marcley, says, "I am planning on some great surprises."
"You'll have to wait 'til the first block party to roll out to find out what they are," she teased. "Otherwise, they wouldn't be a surprise."
One surprise last year was how some downtown parking lots paved the way for creative thinking, with the transformation of the Dog Bar's rear lot into an outdoor dinner music bistro, and Latitude 43's front lot into an outdoor cinema bistro serving up food and live music.
"Everyone loved that," Marcley said.
This year, along with more street performers — dancers, buskers, magicians, minstrels, sword swallowers — Marcley hopes to integrate some of "Gloucester's unsung hero nonprofits" into the action.
Referring to the recession, she says, "Everyone is still struggling, and some of these nonprofits have played life-saving, community-building roles."
Marcley mentioned just a few — the Cape Ann YMCA, Art Haven, Cape Ann Farmers Market, The Open Door.
"They deserve a platform to promote their contributions," she said. "I think we can give them that and I think they can literally bring a lot to our party."
"It's all about loving Gloucester, and community building and goodwill," she says. All of which, she adds, is what's kept small armies of volunteers volunteering their energy and efforts year after year.
"We are grateful for the generous community outpouring of support," she says, "and eager to hear new ideas and suggestions."
Sponsorship suggestions, performer and volunteer inquiries, and questions should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joann Mackenzie can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3457, or at email@example.com.