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East Village street festival set


Business owners in downtown Des Moines’ East Village hope next week’s free neighborhood celebration will entice motorists to park their cars and walk the streets of this burgeoning district to see for themselves the cultural, economic and social changes that are taking place in the shadow of the state’s Capitol.

“There’s been some great press about us, but a lot of people haven’t experienced what we’re all about yet,” said Nate Niceswanger, owner of Zzz Records. “A lot of people drive through, but they don’t walk around.”

Members of Historic East Village Inc. and the East Village Neighborhood Association are looking to remedy that situation as they prepare for the district’s inaugural street festival to be held Friday, June 6, from 5 to 11 p.m. Live music, food, open houses and storefront art will be featured. Organizers say they hope to build on the success of last November’s walking tour of the neighborhood.

“We wanted to build on that and offer an event for people to stay,” said Shannon Boswell, owner of Absolute Art Gallery, 315 E. Fifth St. Boswell is also a board member of Historic East Village Inc., serving on its retail and special events committees. She said the event, like the neighborhood, is designed to appeal to a variety of people.

“It attracts a young, hip crowd and has an eclectic feel,” she said. “But we’re an open neighborhood where everyone is accepted.”

Organizers say the event will start with the unveiling of the Public Art Commission’s storefront art exhibits, featuring the works of Iowa artists commissioned to create unique storefront displays. Many of the artists will be on-hand to discuss their work. Also, several stores, galleries and restaurants will be open for business later then usual and hosting open houses. Participating food vendors include Big Daddy‚s BBQ, Los Primos Mexican Restaurant and the Around Town Grill.

Two free music events will augment the festivities. Blues Before Sunrise, a series of shows performed by local blues bands, will hold its premiere that night at the Iowa Historical Building’s southwest corner outdoor patio from 5 to 7 p.m. Further west, the street festival will feature music at the corner of East Fifth and Locust streets, where four bands will play from 6:15 to 11 p.m. Acts slated to perform are Epiphany, Kathryn Musilek, Little Mojo and Can of Worms.

The festival also will showcase new lighting, streetscapes and dozens of curbside planters filled with trees and flowers, a project that organizers say cost nearly $3 million. Boswell said volunteers have worked with the city of Des Moines to create “a welcoming commercial and residential neighborhood.”

If the event is a success, organizers say it could become an annual or semiannual happening.

“It’s a good opportunity to show people what we’ve been working so hard on here,” Niceswanger said. “Hopefully we can get a lot of people here for the first time, because in two to three years, you’re going to see the neighborhood really improve.”

Boswell said she hopes the event will attract customers as well as potential business owners.

“We want people to see the potential in the area, which is what I saw when I opened my shop in January,” she said. “I think the buzz around Des Moines is to see what’s going on down here, and this is a great way to do that.”

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