Partygoers sing along to Billy Joel's "Piano Man" performed by dueling pianists on Washington Street during the Iowa City Downtown District Block Party on Saturday June 25, 2017. The Block Party, hosted by the ICDD was the first use of Iowa City's changed rules allowing open containers for select events downtown (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

Downtown Block Party comes roaring back to Iowa City

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After a turnout of nearly 30,000 last year, the Block Party is expanding its reach.

By Naomi Hofferber

naomi-hofferber@uiowa.edu

For its second year ever, the Iowa City Block Party aims to roll out an expansion of last year’s celebration, introducing new locations for events and new programming.

Betsy Potter, the director of operations for the Iowa City Downtown District, said most of the changes people will see are logistical.

“We’ve changed the locations for a lot of activities based on last year’s success,” she said. “This year, we’re adding Clinton Street as part of the layout, which will make a huge difference as far as how people navigate the event.”

The layout changes will increase the number of participating bars and restaurants, Potter said. In addition, the sand volleyball court location was moved, as well as the silent disco, which because of its popularity, will last five hours.

The event was created as part of a strategic plan taken on by the Downtown District to better embrace the businesses in the nighttime economy, Potter said.

“It really opens up the conversation of downtown Iowa City as a place for everybody, even during the evening hours,” she said.

Party-goers have the opportunity to play Ping-Pong, mini golf, and giant Jenga, as well as witness live music, a circus-theme fashion show, a DJ competition, and hatchet-throwing demonstrations. 

Individuals wishing to drink at the event can purchase wristbands for $11, and then they may walk throughout the event with their cups. 

Despite the construction encompassing the  Pedestrian Mall this summer, Potter said it would not affect the event.

“What we’ve done, and what we’ll continue to do over the next year, is to really just act as if the constructions not there, almost,” she said.  “We’ll still have programming on the Ped Mall. We’re not ignoring that portion of the downtown at all.”

The stage located on the Ped Mall last year has been moved to outside the construction, but such programming as an outdoor movie hosted by FilmScene will still take place in the area.

This year, FilmScene will screen Ghostbusters in the alleyway. Rebecca Fons, the programming director for FilmScene, said the event is BYOC: Bring Your Own Chair.

The organization works closely with the Downtown District, Fons said, especially in the winter during the holiday Picture Show programming, in which a Santa for the events is provided by the district. 

“We’re very friendly with the Downtown District,” Fons said. “We’re all fighting for the same cause, to draw visitors to the downtown area, so doing things like the Downtown Block Party … it’s really in our nature to do that.”

Jamin Langtimm, a manager at Sports Column, said last year the bar had patrons from afternoon untievening.

“It kinda goes all day,” he said. “As opposed to the nightlife, where we’ll pick up between 10 and 10:30 p.m., it seemed to be an all day thing. People were getting out at 2 in the afternoon, enjoying it, especially when the weather is nice. I think it brings a lot more people down here.”

Langtimm said that the block party introduces people to the local food and drink scene.

“For Iowa City, I think it’s very diverse, and I think that this block party kind of incorporates that into a melting pot for all kind of people who enjoy it,” he said.

Potter said they plan to grow and change the event each year.

“We really want it to be something that people look forward to every year as a place to have a really good time,” Potter said.

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