Events bring community to the streets

Despite the extreme heat this past weekend, members of the Waterloo community took to the streets for the many festivals happening in the Uptown area. Starting with the Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival on Friday and closing with Square2Square on Sunday afternoon, there was plenty for people to take part in.

The 19th annual Jazz Festival brought in an array of performances. July 15 kicked off with Canadian R&B star Jully Black headlining the evening’s show on the main stage located in the city hall parking lot.

While events at the second stage in the public square featured concerts through the hottest hours of Friday and Saturday, the seats were still filled with an enthusiastic audience.

Along Willis Way across from the festival’s second stage on Saturday, Arts Squared Artist Market showcased the works of local artists. Maritza Alba, displaying her oil paintings, said that she would like to see more events promoting artists in the community.

Being a member of the Kitchener-Waterloo Society of Artists (KWSA), Alba had taken part in the market last year as well. Comparing this weekend’s market to the ones held last summer, she said, “We expected more people today but it wasn’t a lot.” While the Jazz Festival brought in some interest, she found that the event needed more promotion.

Frances Gregory, another member of KWSA, explained that the market not only exhibits the work of individual artists, but also promotes KWSA as a whole. “We just want people to know that we’re here,” she said.

Providing a community for artists, Gregory explained, the KWSA hosts meetings, workshops and speakers to help support the creative talent that exists in the area.

The second Square2Square event of the summer closed off this weekend’s activities on July 17, creating a car-free zone on King Street between Central and Union Streets. The expanded event also included one lane without cars from Union all the way to Victoria Street in Kitchener.

The hot weather again posed as a challenge to draw community members outside. “We’ve seen people come out, but they’ve come out for a shorter period of time,” said Ward 5 city councillor Melissa Durrell.

While attendees were spending less time Uptown during Square2Square, Durrell pointed out that people were nevertheless coming out. “Really 5-10,000 people coming in to Uptown and downtown Kitchener is great for business and that was our goal,” Durrell added.

Amy Ermel, working at a booth for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation during Square2Square, commented that she hoped there would be more promotion for the next event scheduled for Aug. 14.

Durrell confirmed that the next Square2Square will be covering the same distance but should have more events along the road. “We’d love to see more businesses get involved with this. I think it’s absolutely important that we are encouraging them to get involved with these events,” she said.

Looking ahead to the Sept. 18 car-free event, which will block off King St. all the way to University Ave., Durrell said, “We want to include all the students that are coming in in September and say, ‘Hey, welcome to our community. Get on a bike or put on your running shoes and enjoy Uptown Waterloo.'”