Monday, March 7, 2011

Spring Plaza Evenings: Come Join in!

Spring is almost here. Winter is coming to a close.

The ice skating rink on Veterans Plaza has but a few more days left before it is done for the season. Ice skating on Veterans Plaza has been widely popular, bringing the Plaza alive with children of all ages every winter night, regardless of the weather condition. (NOTE: It is not over yet. Veterans are invited to skate free for the remaining few days!)

How do we keep that energy – that vitality and liveliness – that the ice skating rink has brought to Veterans Plaza when the rink is no longer there?

We look forward to having many special events on the Plaza, such as our marquee Jazz Festival, Thanksgiving Parade, and concerts. We also are pleased that the Plaza will be used as the place for fabulous community events, major celebrations, the start/end point for walks and runs, and other special functions. Beginning April 30 and going through the winter holidays, the Plaza will come alive every Saturday morning and afternoon with the Fenton Street Market. On Friday and Saturday nights (downtown Silver Spring’s busiest nights), the Plaza remains the natural gathering place for the many people that come to enjoy downtown eateries, movies, and the entertainment offered on Ellsworth (by the Fountain.)

To complement all these wonderful programmed and special activities, the community will also be gathering on the Plaza other evenings in a much more informal, “happenstance” way, to simply come enjoy “being there”, to simply “be with others”.

During the Spring (April through June) we will be experimenting with “Plaza Evenings”: different approaches to spark constructive, family friendly community engagement on Veterans Plaza Sunday evenings through Thursday evenings 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. These Plaza Evenings will be inviting and welcoming people from all walks of life to routinely and consistently activate the Plaza. These Plaza Evenings will provide an opportunity for our community to discover Veterans Plaza as our ‘public square’ not only for major programmed events, but as the place to be to “be community”. And thus, bring to fruition the dual, complementary role of this space to “spark community engagement and spark economic activity.”

PLAZA EVENINGS: Sunday – Thursday 7 – 9 pm

This will be a continuation of a successful attempt last Fall to do traditional drum circles on the Plaza. That experiment saw over 100 people coming together weekly to enjoy “making beautiful noise”. Our hope is that this ‘new tradition’ will begin once again.

Great plazas in the world are places where community conversation, civic dialogue, and discourse thrive. Some of these will be intentional and structured, but there will be room for the unexpected and impromptu. Our hope is that groups and institutions will see this as a wonderful opportunity to ‘take it to the streets’ and bring meaningful conversation to the Plaza.

We already know of one group that will be taking their indoor exercise class ‘outside’ (they now do it regularly in the Civic Building.) This will make for an interesting interactive, playful, ‘people-watching’ atmosphere on the Plaza. Our hope is that others will join in.

One group has committed to start with chess. But, there are plenty of opportunities – there are plenty of benches! – for checkers, dominoes, and other games. Our hope is that interest from other ‘gamers’ will follow.

The idea is to have movies, music, and more (performances) on the Plaza. We are seeking groups that are looking for an audience, require little to no amplification, seek no remuneration, and are willing to experiment. Our hope is that local talent will rise to the occasion and ‘sign up’ to participate.

NOTE: Plaza Evenings will be occasionally substituted by programmed and special events.

In these difficult budget times, it is important to note that Plaza Evenings are community and volunteer driven, costing the County nothing. The success of these Plaza Evening hinges on them ‘catching on’, growing organically, and being perpetuated by the participants themselves, not county resources.

Our hope for the success of these Plaza Evenings is modest. By fermenting these community engagement ‘naturally grown’ activities, the Plaza will become ‘the place to be’ on any given night, not just when there is a major or special event… Hopefully, people will ‘know that there is always something good and healthy going on’ at Veterans Plaza.

Since the earliest days of the conceptualization of the Silver Spring redevelopment, the idea was that there would be a ‘plaza’ downtown. That is Veterans Plaza. Veterans Plaza is our ‘traditional’ plaza akin to many plazas around the world in large and small cities. This is where all members of our community - including residents, visitors, shoppers, and people just ‘passing by’ - come to enjoy time together, mingle, meet-up, ‘people-watch’, and simply ‘be there’. The Plaza is our public square.

The concept for these Plaza Evenings has been developed in consultation with the Silver Spring Regional Center’s Advisory Groups. Many other organizations and individuals have also provided very valuable input. And now it is time to ‘implement’… We will experiment during the Spring and revisit the success and challenges of Plaza Evenings in time to improve as we roll into summer (July through September.) As you participate and partake of the Plaza Evenings April through June, we invite you to help us make it even better by getting in contact with us or simply leaving a post on this blog. But most important, we hope you will help us make it a success by joining in… See you at the Plaza!

The People Make the Place (March 2010)
Top Ten Plaza Possibilities (July 2010)
Common Values for Sharing Veterans Plaza (July 2010)

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tony hausner said...

This is a great set of ideas. many thanks. I would encourage you to ask the community for their ideas. In a sense this does that, but an explicit email to the ssrc mailing list, would get their attention better. Some ideas that may not have been mentioned include: contests, exhibitions, and races, e.g., walking with eggs on a spoon, costume events, book groups, discussion clubs,e.g., politics, sewing circles,

Fiddla said...

All I know is this is something I been waiting for for years. As a native Washingtonian and graduate of the East-West Highway corner schools, old Montgomery Hills Jr High and the BCC High. My modern brand of chamber music is just bursting to bloom on the local scene this year. I look forward to the the audiences who happen to be my neighbors too. After ten years of touring and living overseas it is a pleasure to be here now during this new wind of culture for our area.
See you all there, RaycurtakaFIDDLA

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