Burns Court merchants concerned about street closures during the 2013 Sarasota Chalk Festival might see some relief this year. According to festival organizer Denise Kowal, this year’s festival will be more spread out and span fewer days.
She is proposing that the festival, which normally takes place on Pineapple Avenue in Burns Court, expand north this year along the same street between Orange Avenue and First Street, with the Children’s Chalk Block taking place in Selby Five Points Park. The festival will take place from Nov. 13 to Nov. 18 — six days, compared to last year’s 10.
“Our vision was always to have the festival span the whole length of Pineapple Avenue,” says Kowal. “The event was meant to draw tourism to downtown, and we want everyone to have a great experience. We want people to be able to be up close and personal with the artists and artwork, and, hopefully, this will help disperse the crowds.”
In previous years, Burns Court business owners expressed concerns with these crowds, as well as the duration of the festival, citing the street closures as disruptive to business.
LeAnne Swor, owner of L. Boutique in Burns Court, says closures have negatively impacted she and fellow Burns Court merchants. She’s hopeful that this year’s changes and effects of a more spread out event.
“Hopefully it won’t be so congested in one area,” says Swor. “I like the idea of having it in a bigger area for a shorter amount of time. I love the Chalk Festival, but having the streets closed for six to 10 days doesn’t benefit us.”
This year, Kowal worked with business owners along Pineapple Avenue to gain consent to the expansion changes This will mark the first year some of these business owners will experience the direct effects of the festival.
Anish Patel owns Patellini’s Pizza on Main Street near the intersection of Pineapple, where street closures will occur. He hopes the increased foot traffic will benefit his business.
“Even last year, we were very busy during the festival,” says Patel. “We even felt the effects all the way up here. We support any event like this that happens downtown, especially one that’s growing like this, which brings more people to downtown Sarasota. I understand how it could have a negative impact on some of the business owners in Burns Court, but, hopefully, it will be more spread out this year.”
Increased traffic in the area has a more obvious potential for a positive impact on food vendors and restaurants, but retailers and boutique owners along Pineapple Avenue are also hoping to benefit from the increased visibility.
Ned Bowman, of Bowman Originals jewelry, says he understands the challenge the festival can present to merchants like him.
“I can sympathize with them,” he says. “Last year, there was such a huge concentration of people in one area, and I can see how that would hurt their business. By spreading it out, I think it will benefit everyone. We’ll have a chance to introduce ourselves to the spectators, and there won’t be as much of a burden on the storeowners in one area.”
— A&E Editor Mallory Gnaegy contributed to this story.
This year, street closures will occur in shifts:
• Wednesday, Nov. 13 — a small portion of South Pineapple Avenue from Selby Lane to Laurel Street.
• Thursday, Nov. 14 — additional space on Pineapple between Oak Street and Dolphin Lane will close.
• Saturday, Nov. 16, and Sunday, Nov. 17 — Oak Street will be closed between South Pineapple and Palm Avenue. South Pineapple will be closed between Ringling Boulevard and Main Street. And North Pineapple Avenue will be closed between Main and First streets.
• Roundabouts on Ringling Boulevard and Main Street will remain open for traffic throughout the festival.
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