Officials say Block Party event turn-out was largest in downtown history

Partygoers+sing+along+to+Billy+Joel%27s+%22Piano+Man%22+performed+by+dueling+pianists+on+Wasahington+Street+during+the+Iowa+City+Downtown+District+Block+Party+on+Saturday+June+25%2C+2017.+The+Block+Party%2C+hosted+by+the+ICDD+was+the+first+use+of+Iowa+City%27s+changed+rules+allowing+open+containers+for+select+events+downtown+%28Nick+Rohlman%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
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Officials say Block Party event turn-out was largest in downtown history

Partygoers sing along to Billy Joel's

Partygoers sing along to Billy Joel's "Piano Man" performed by dueling pianists on Wasahington Street during the Iowa City Downtown District Block Party on Saturday June 25, 2017. The Block Party, hosted by the ICDD was the first use of Iowa City's changed rules allowing open containers for select events downtown (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

NICK ROHLMAN

Partygoers sing along to Billy Joel's "Piano Man" performed by dueling pianists on Wasahington Street during the Iowa City Downtown District Block Party on Saturday June 25, 2017. The Block Party, hosted by the ICDD was the first use of Iowa City's changed rules allowing open containers for select events downtown (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

NICK ROHLMAN

NICK ROHLMAN

Partygoers sing along to Billy Joel's "Piano Man" performed by dueling pianists on Wasahington Street during the Iowa City Downtown District Block Party on Saturday June 25, 2017. The Block Party, hosted by the ICDD was the first use of Iowa City's changed rules allowing open containers for select events downtown (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

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The Iowa City Downtown District held the first Iowa City Block Party on June 24.

By Madeline Deninger

[email protected]

As large crowds gathered in downtown Iowa City for the June 24 Block Party, there was one distinction from previous events put on by the city’s Downtown District: Adult guests were permitted to drink wine and beer throughout the Pedestrian Mall and surrounding streets.

The difference follows an amendment the City Council passed to the open-container ordinance in April. The council OK’d a measure that allows open containers of wine or beer to be carried from one licensed area to another, with events such as this in mind.

Simon Andrew, the assistant to the city manager, believes the move is a catalyst to get local businesses involved rather than bringing in outside vendors.

“The Downtown District was interested in sponsoring an event that was tailored to local vendors,” he said.

The area of the party was a licensed area, and the first of its kind, the event was intended to be family-oriented. Andrew said family-friendliness was part of the discussion when considering the amendment.

Ginny Buresh of Coralville attended the Block Party with her four children during the earlier hours of the evening.

“We love doing the Iowa City festivals that they have in the summer,” she said. “It’s a great time to be downtown when all the students are gone, when it’s a little more accessible.”

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Buresh said she felt comfortable bringing her children to the event but noted they intended to leave before the event “gets a little crazy later on.”

To ensure the safety of those involved, six off-duty Iowa City police officers were onsite. Signs clearly dictated the limits of the licensed area for open containers, and buckets were placed beside them to dump excess alcohol before exiting the area.

Beer and wine were only available in the official event containers, sold at tents on the party’s perimeters. Even alcoholic popsicles sold by one vendor were required to be transported in the plastic cups.

The Block Party drew several local businesses, many of them selling alcohol, food, and other drinks at booths throughout the Ped Mall and on the downtown sidewalks.

Other events included beach volleyball on Dubuque Street, live music from several performers, an outdoor movie, and a fashion show.

The fashion show, put on by Iowa City brand Born Leaders United, featured clothing from a variety of Iowa City shops.

“We just wanted to create something that would bring people out from the community so that they can experience something different when it comes to fashion,” said Born Leaders CEO and designer Andre Wright.

Not only was the party the first event to allow open containers, it was the largest in the Downtown District’s history. District Director Nancy Bird believes the turnout can be partly attributed to the ordinance.

“I think with the sheer number of people who showed up, it demonstrated the demand for that, and quite frankly, it was a beautiful night,” she said. “Everything was very well-managed. There were no major issues. People seemed to be drinking responsibly, and there were families out.”

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