Car Free Day evolves and expands

Twenty blocks on Main Street will be closed June 16

Car Free Day Vancouver has evolved into a community-driven project far beyond at least one organizer's dreams.

"It's kind of like that Stone Soup fable," said Matthew Carrico, who sits on the board of the non-profit society and helps co-ordinate the Main Street festival. "We supply the nuts, bolts and logistics, and the community takes it from there. We shut the streets down, but it's the community that provides the positive vibe."

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This year, Car Free Day Vancouver takes over three neighbourhoods June 16, including the largest on Main Street, which will stretch 20 blocks from Broadway to East 30th Avenue. The No. 3 Main/Downtown bus will be rerouted from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

On Commercial Drive, streets from Venables Street to North Grandview and the Central Valley Greenway Bike Lane will be closed; and in the West End, Denman Street will be closed to traffic between Davie and Robson. There are car free celebrations in Kitsilano, but they take place June 15 and 16 in the form of neighbourhood block parties. More than 250,000 participants are expected to walk, bike or take transit to the festivals, which will see large sections of streets closed to vehicle traffic.

Carrico said it has been very rewarding to watch partnerships grow each year between businesses, artists and performers of every genre. This year's events on Main Street include several mini-festivals and more than a dozen community-supported stages with even more bands.

The kids' zone and related activities includes children's yoga, button making, art zones, bike lessons and chalk art.

Mount Pleasant and Hillcrest community centres also have planned activities for Main Street during the day.

"There's a ton of stuff for kids to do," said Carrico. "We're starting to see more families and lots more kids come out. Now I'll see them in the morning, then in the afternoon and then again at 6 o'clock. Families are making a full day of it."

Besides three full artisan markets, a fashion show, roller derby demonstrations, dance zones, as well as hundreds of non-profits, local artisans and businesses make up rest of the popular festival.

Carrico noted a highlight of the Main Street festival is the Village Vancouver demonstration village. The goal of Village Vancouver is to create a vibrant city at the leading edge of sustainability, where residents know their neighbours and participate in collective actions to minimize their ecological footprint.

Ross Moster of Village Vancouver said this year's display will be bigger and better than ever with four large tents and demonstrations of everything from bee keeping to raising backyard chickens to bike repair. The group will also be giving away seeds for planting. Vancouverite Duncan Martin will be on hand at the demonstration village showing off some of his original chicken coops. Martin's specialties include the Vancooper and the Mini-Coop, a folding unit that can be used seasonally. New this year is a display by Rick Havlak founder of Homestead Emporium, a store on East Hastings Street that offers one-stop shopping for a wide range of do-it-yourself urban homesteading projects.

"They're going to create a zero waste, plastic-free kitchen," said Moster.

Moster is a firm believer that Car Free Day Vancouver is a success in every way.

"It's fantastic," said Moster. "With a quarter-of-a-million people coming out, it shows our streets can be used for so much more than cars."

Car Free Day Vancouver is still in need of volunteers for all of its locations and there are several orientation sessions taking place this weekend and early next week. For more information on volunteer orientation sessions and a complete list of Car Free Day events and locations, visit carfreevancouver.org.

sthomas@vancourier.com

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