Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Thousands attend this year’s Amherst block party

The event was organized by the Amherst Business Improvement District

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(Alvin Buyinza/ Daily Collegian)

(Alvin Buyinza/ Daily Collegian)

(Alvin Buyinza/ Daily Collegian)

By Alvin Buyinza, Assistant News Editor

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This year, two to three thousand residents of Amherst and surrounding communities attended theseventh annual Amherst Block Party, where local restaurants, music, street performances and community organizations were all featured.

Organized by the Amherst Business Improvement District, the Amherst Block Party is dedicated to celebrating local businesses and organizations in the Amherst and surrounding areas. This year, roughly 25 to 30 local restaurants and 60 community organizations participated in the event on North Pleasant Street.

“[The BID] envisioned this as a way to bring the community to downtown [Amherst], welcoming them to town, making them remember what a great downtown it is,” said Sarah LaCour, executive director of the Amherst Business Improvement District. “It is so vibrant, the different types of restaurants and shops we have,” LaCour said.

Lined up and down the sides of the street, restaurant tents and food vendors serving food such as crab rangoon, kebab, noodles and burritos drew lines of customers.

Alongside them, community organizations such as A Better Chance Amherst, a non-profit aimed at academically assisting young men of color, the Boy Scouts of South Amherst and the Amherst Cinema interacted with attendees.

(Caroline O’Connor/ Daily Collegian)

One of the block party’s main attractions was a series of circus performances by various artists from SHOW Circus Studio in Easthampton. One of the circus performers, Kayla Banks, who’s been “doing circus” for four years, calls her particular routine “a janitor stealing a rocket ship.”

In the middle of North Pleasant Street, Banks did flips and spins while being suspended from a thick blue ribbon attached to a giant apparatus. Crowds of people gathered around her in awe over the intricate and sudden movements.

“It [the Amherst Block Party] is definitely more so to give people the opportunity to perform in front of an audience,” Banks said. “Those opportunities are really few and far between, so being able to perform in front of an audience of people who don’t really know us and what’s going on and what we are doing is very exciting and exhilarating because you see these looks of shock and wonder in their faces.”

In addition to circus performances, small makeshift games of basketball and hockey hosted by the University of Massachusetts Athletics Department broke out between young children.

“We’re trying to get a lot of outreach for the community, to let people know what UMass Athletics has to offer and what we have for the future,” said Sean Kelleher, a UMass Athletics Marketing intern.

Members of the basketball and hockey teams also taught kids how dribble and shoot pucks, while parents watched from the side.

Another attraction that gained the attention of children was the popular musical carriage, which was decorated in CDs and colorful lights and driven by Finn Kelley, an Amherst resident. Kelley offered rides around the street to groups of three to four children while he played popular songs from his iPhone such as “God’s Plan” by Drake.

(Alvin Buyinza/ Daily Collegian)

Local bands such as The Losers (a Tom Petty tribute band), Crimson Canary and Gentle Hen played during the block party.

Alvin Buyinza can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @abuyinza_news.

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