Circle the City Open Streets Initiative: Blue Hill Avenue

For the second year, Circle the City Open Streets Initiative closes a main thoroughfare on summer Sunday afternoons in different Boston neighborhoods to encourage residents to engage with each other and to become involved with healthy outdoor activities.  The non-profit’s ultimate goal is to “reimagine” city streets not just for driving but for human interaction and community building.  A tad nostalgic.  On Sunday I headed over to Blue Hill Avenue for the last one of the season.  Over a mile of the avenue between Dudley and Warren streets was divided into 10 “zones” with a different theme in each like fitness, family fun or creative expression (no food zone :-().  Organizations set up booths promoting their causes, goods or services.  Walking from the Dudley end mid-afternoon, the level of participation seemed sparse with just a few sole bikers whizzing by or mothers with children in hand taking a stroll.

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Things picked up towards the middle of the route including in the Green zone which had stands for farmer’s markets and Greenovate Boston.  The fitness zone included booths from bike enthusiasts, yoga teachers and zumba classes.  A representative from a local dance school approached me with a flyer asking if I had any kids or grandkids.  Grandkids????  “You can never tell….”, she said.  I beg to differ.

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I think this was a good way to get an introduction to a neighborhood with which I was not familiar.  As an event, it is still early in its lifecycle but they could probably get more participation if the activities were more well-defined.  There is a schedule available for download or handed out as a flyer, but when you walk by each zone it’s not clear that there is an actual class or presentation specifically being organized.  Also given the length of the walk if you choose to walk the entire way, food and drink stands (healthy ones!) would be welcome.

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Annunciation Cathedral Greek Fest 2013

Since I can’t get enough of Greek festivals, I stopped by the annual Greek Fest on Saturday night held at the Annunciation Cathedral located in the Fenway near Wentworth Institute.  This 3-day event like others in the area is a major fundraiser for the church.  The cathedral is the seat of the Greek Orthodox Bishop of Boston and the cathedral’s community is celebrating its 110th anniversary.  The building is a beautiful Byzantine-revival style completed in 1923.  There is a huge turnout for this event which offers several musical groups, dance troupes and church tours, not to mention the homemade food.  I indulged in a vegetarian plate of spanakopita, rice pilaf, Greek salad and dolmades.  With no room left for dessert I took home a few boxes of desserts – there were at least a dozen varieties to choose from.

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Allston Village Street Fair

It was back to my old stomping grounds for the 30th annual Allston Village Street Fair on Sunday.  The stretch of Harvard Ave between Brighton Ave and Cambridge St closes to traffic for this afternoon of music, street performance and food.  Thousands of people of all ages pass through vendor stalls promoting local (and not-so-local) businesses as well as non-profits, punctuated with the odd bouncy castle or food stand.  Two stages showcase Boston-area bands, singers and rappers.  The event is organized by the Parents and Community Build Group whose mission is to strengthen community and quality of life in Allston-Brighton by putting on events that bring residents together, advocating for green spaces like Ringer Park and supporting social services with local impact.

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A few used clothing shops set up stands to display samples of their inventories including Boomerangs, a non-profit supporting the Massachusetts Aids Action CommitteeCarryOn, a subsidiary of the St. Francis House, showed off a selection of their handmade bags fashioned from repurposed materials.  Most are tote or messenger style and made from reclaimed coffee or rice sacks.  Purchases will help make this venture an economically viable business owned and operated by the formerly homeless.  The Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, part of the Bulgarian Diocese, had its annual yard sale on this day.  Items were donated by the congregation and it was a sad sight.  The litmus test for what you should donate to a church fundraiser should be whether someone else would want the junk that you no longer want.  It is a shame that most of this stuff belonged in the trash and did not appear to be moving at all.

There were fewer food vendors this year than in the past which was a little disappointing, and even fewer options for a vegetarian.  Instead we ended up at the Refuge Café at the corner of Harvard and Brighton Avenues which afforded a great vantage point to watch the bands on the main stage.  When it opened a few years ago people wondered whether this place could fill the void left by the much missed Allston Café, but it seems to be doing just fine.  There are plenty of vegetarian options, local beers on tap as well as one of my favorite things, Angry Orchard Cider!  I went for the Tofu Bowl which is a satisfying dish of vegetarian chili on top of home fries with some tofu thrown in.  The eggplant fries were also a delicious novelty.

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Street performers included drummers, a Harvard marching band, salsa dancers and former America’s Got Talent contestant Snap Boogie who pulled me out of the crowd to jump over my head along with another unsuspecting victim.  There was an annoyingly long windup to the actual jump which involved him trying to hype up the crowd and get his perimeter of onlookers perfect during which I was forced to stand in the middle and wait.  While I am amazed at the feat itself, his ass did actually hit me in the back of the head!

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