Third Annual Block Party rocks downtown this weekend
Highlights from Iowa City's 2018 downtown block party
This weekend, a stroll through downtown Iowa City might bring you past a screening of "Grease," a volleyball tournament and a silent disco or any of the dozens of other events flooding the streets for the third Downtown Block Party.
The Downtown Block Party started three years ago as part of the same initiative that created Iowa City's night mayor, a position recently filled by Joe Reilly. The party runs from 5 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, June 22 and will see road closures beginning at 6 a.m. that day with closures including: Clinton Street from Blick to Iowa Book, Washington Street from Hills Bank & Trust to the Senior Center, Linn Street from The Record Collector to Zen, Dubuque Street from the pedestrian mall to St. Burch and Iowa Ave will be open for driving but parking spots on its south side will be closed.
According to Betsy Potter, director of operations for the Iowa City Downtown District, some programming will start in advance of the 5 p.m. start time. Yoga in the beer garden at Brothers and some of the sports tournaments will start at 2 and 4 p.m. respectively.
“We set up this sand volleyball court which is super fun, and it always fills up with registrations," said Potter. "But it’s also very tempting for (kids) to play in the sand so this year we brought in extra sand for people (to play in).”
Spots have already filled up for the sand volleyball tournament and the tug-of-war tournament later at 10 p.m., but, as of reporting, there are still spots open for tennis and basketball. If there are still spots open on Saturday, teams will be allowed to drop in and participate the day of.
All this is only a sliver of Saturday's offerings. According to Potter, ICDD has more programming partners than ever before with "over 30 programming activities" through the evening.
One of the new partners is Prompt Press, an "arts journal for writing inspired by visual art and visual art inspired by writing," which will have a Generative Art Station in Black Hawk Mini Park from 5 to 8 p.m. Founding Editor Jennifer Colville described their station as inspired by the surrealist game "Exquisite Corpse."
“We wanted to have something that the public could participate in in a sort of non-intimidating, easy way," Colville said. "With the exquisite corpse, the idea is that you just say whatever comes to your mind."
Say a line from a pop song or repeat a turn of phrase and a writer will jot a quick response to the prompt on a typewriter before then handing that off to a visual artist. The visual artist will compose an image and pass it onto a second writer-artist set who will build on what came before to create an new work of art.
A returning partner this year is FilmScene. In past years, the theater screened films in the alley behind their building, but with the block party getting bigger and bigger, they'll be setting up instead on Linn Street. at 8 p.m. this year, and the staff have picked a movie to fit their new screening grounds.
“'West Side Story' is good in the alley, and 'Ghostbusters' is a city movie, and a favorite of a lot of us at FilmScene," said Fons of past picks. "(This year) we thought, 'what’s a movie that if you want to wander in, sit for ten minutes and wander out'—so we landed on 'Grease' because it’s that kind of classic film.”
FilmScene's Executive Director Joe Tiefenthaler is excited to be able to have a continued relationship with the ICDD through the years.
"Downtown is the heart of the arts in Iowa City and Block Party is a terrific example of bringing people together and building community through a cultural event," he said. "We're honored that the Iowa City Downtown District is supporting the Strengthen Grow Evolve campaign (which a portion of funds raised will go toward), and grateful to all of our downtown neighbors who recognize the value of a vibrant downtown to a healthy economy."
Other events throughout the day include a silent disco with 750 available headsets this year running the entirety of the the event, open play video games like Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart at the Public Library from 6 to 8 p.m. and a break dancing competition from 6 to 7 p.m.
Though all these events and others are free to attend, tickets can be bought for an event cup which will allow participants to bring beer and wine onto the street. Potter also noted that ramp parking downtown is free for the event on Saturday up until 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 23.
“It’s just kind of a different way to experience downtown," said Potter. "Whether you’re going to a show at the Englert or FilmScene or enjoying the library or having drinks or dinner downtown. This is just (us saying) 'let’s all do it together on one night for the community.'”
More information and details about the event can be found at ICDD's website.
Isaac Hamlet covers arts, entertainment and culture at the Press-Citizen. Reach him at email@example.com or (319)-688-4247, follow him on Twitter @IsaacHamlet