Residents take over the streets

Open Streets, held on Sept. 14, closed uptown traffic and allowed the public to explore the area

Photo by Heather Davidson
Photo by Heather Davidson

On Saturday, Open Streets took place in uptown Waterloo. Open Streets, a series of events that started in 2011 under the name Car Free Sundays, is a free sidewalk event that aims to bring the Waterloo community to the uptown area and show them what the city has to offer.

“The idea of Open Streets is to bring the community back into uptown Waterloo, down to King Street, to show them that there’s so much available here,” said Samantha Trieu, director of marketing for Open Streets.

Open Streets embraces the global open streets initiative, which encourages temporary closure of streets to car traffic, to instead promote socializing and exploration of busy downtown areas.

There are currently over 100 documented events in North America involving the car-free initiative.

“Uptown Waterloo is usually four lanes of car traffic, and the public square is really the only way to come and hang out. This event enables people to come down and check out booths without the traffic,” said Trieu.

Besides being an event to show the uptown area, Open Streets also showcases local vendors, artists, craftsmen and various other groups by allowing them to set up free booths.

This also means vendors that typically need a license to use the uptown square, like the food truck West of Seoul, are able to operate for free as long as they fill out a form with Open Streets.

“As long as your organization, activity or group is not in any way damaging, we accept anybody, and we don’t charge anyone for their booths,” said Trieu.

This year Open Streets hosted a variety of groups, ranging anywhere from local musicians, to artisans and businesses.
Booths were not typically just a place to ask about an organization, but a place to see a performance or presentation.

“I think it’s a great way for the community to see what uptown Waterloo has to offer,” said GP Amodio, a second-year student at Wilfrid Laurier University.

“There’s a lot of diverse groups, from indie music groups, to B-boy competitions to a native dance group,” said Trieu.

Open Streets currently holds four events in uptown each summer. This year, the group has held one event each month since June and plans to continue this down the road.

“I think that what we have right now is fantastic, and then we can build up the momentum and invite more of the community,” said Trieu. “And then from there react accordingly.”

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