Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - April 25, 2014

1st Wednesday returns May 7 with focus on families

The 1st Wednesday street parties will kick off their summer run May 7 with a Cinco de Mayo theme but without the popular Beer Garden that attracted hundreds of celebrants and also served as a fundraiser for the Pleasanton Downtown Association and the Rotary Club of Pleasanton, which handled the set-ups.

It's unclear how many joined in the fun at 1st Wednesday just for the food and more than 100 vendors offering merchandise and services, but the Beer Garden was always packed during the entire three-hour party.

PDA Director Laura Olson made the decision to turn the Beer Garden space in the parking lot at 530 Main St. into a family-oriented and pet-friendly "Entertainment Garden" with a band and ample seating "where you can kick back, relax, eat and have fun." She said the PDA will give those interested in an alcoholic beverage a list of places in downtown that offer those kinds of refreshments.

"Our goal has always been for the community to enjoy gathering and celebrating at our downtown events," Olson said. "But after listening to feedback from many people and in an effort to keep 1st Wednesdays a wonderful, family-friendly event, we have decided to no longer serve beer and wine during 1st Wednesdays."

We defer to Olson's good judgment, but the move will likely curb some of the enthusiasm for 1st Wednesdays. Still, with a new family-focused sitting area and music for dancing and listening, the street party might bring renewed interest from parents who stopped attending the event because of the drinking crowd. A cordoned-off area for families was added to the Beer Garden several years ago, but that space was far from the bandstand, adding more criticism from those objecting to the sometimes rowdy crowds in the area reserved for alcoholic beverages.

Besides the new Entertainment Garden, the PDA also is expanding its Farmers Market this year, moving it closer to the heart of the event and giving shoppers an additional summer day to buy fresh produce in downtown Pleasanton. The same certified Farmers Market that we have on Saturdays will be open from 6-9 p.m. on 1st Wednesdays on St. Mary Street.

Also this year, 1st Wednesdays will continue to host incredible artists and artisans at "ArtBlock," located on East Angela Street. The block allows strollers to discover a wealth of talent from painters, sculptors, jewelers and more. Plus, there will be live music each month in addition to the featured band in the Entertainment Garden. Musicians including local bands, youth groups and others will be featured in various locations during the 1st Wednesday season.

In addition to the start of the 1st Wednesday street parties, the PDA's Concerts in the Park will start Friday evening, June 6, with classic soul music by the West Grand Boulevard band. The concerts, which start at 7 p.m. in Lions Wayside Park at the corner of First and Neal streets in Pleasanton, will feature the James Nagel Band on June 13; Ruckatan Latin Tribe, June 20; The Crisis, June 27; Cooltones, July 11; OTR, July 18; Plastic Paddy, July 25; Finding Stella, Aug. 1; Tommy and the 4 Speeds, Aug. 8; Burton & Co, Aug. 15; Magic Moments, Aug. 22; and Public Eye, Aug. 29, which will be the final concert of the season on Labor Day weekend.

These 1st Wednesday events as well as Concerts in the Park are the result of careful and long-term planning by the PDA staff, including Olson, Sue Post, office manager, and Julie Vlahon, events & communication manager. For more information about the PDA and its events, sign on to the organization's website at www.pleasantondowntown.net.

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