Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Celebrate Amherst Block Party supports local business and builds a sense of community

By Kristen Forscher

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(Grace Gulick/Daily Collegian)

(Grace Gulick/Daily Collegian)

The fourth annual Celebrate Amherst Block Party, put on by the Amherst Business Improvement District, brought in students from nearby colleges, area residents and even those from out of town on Thursday evening to support local business.

“We want to get people to come downtown so they can acclimate and think of Amherst as a vibrant place to shop, eat and have fun,” said Sarah la Cour, executive director of Amherst Business Improvement District.

She said the event sought to build a sense of community between the local businesses of Amherst and students, and hoped to build a “home away from home” atmosphere for students.

Turnout at the event stood as a testament to la Cour’s goal, as students from local colleges, families in the community and others crowded the streets of downtown Amherst.

Restaurants and vendors stood outside on North Pleasant Street, which was closed to traffic from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. specifically for the event, advertising their businesses. The event also included music, circus performers and dancing, according to the Amherst BID’s website.

One of the goals of the event was to boost the Amherst economy throughout the entire year, not just when school is in session, according to la Cour.

“Of course the five colleges contribute to our local businesses, it’s wonderful to have them here,” she said. “That’s why we want to give back to them and provide them with a home away from home type of community.”

As can be expected, the rate of business success hits its peak in the fall of every year, as students return to campus and families visit in October. From an economic standpoint, these numbers of incoming customers are steady until winter break when the students go home.

“Downtown Amherst is currently experiencing a 9-month economy, we’re striving for a 12-month one,” la Cour said.

There isn’t much data tracking the block party’s effect on local businesses has been recorded, but la Cour has plans to change that this year.

“We are sending out a brief survey to local business owners this fall to inquire their opinions regarding the Amherst Block Party this year,” la Cour said. “Hopefully it will prove to be successful.”

Kristen Forscher can be reached at [email protected]

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