Just over the new Jefferson Park Avenue Extended Bridge, past Wayside Takeout & Catering, the Fry’s Spring Neighborhood turned out Saturday for a street festival to celebrate their community and the near completion of the bridge construction project.
The event, Bike Walk Play JPA, closed the Fry’s Spring Neighborhood stretch of Jefferson Park Avenue to traffic and opened the street to pedestrians. Residents and visitors enjoyed puppet shows, live music and trash bowling, among other events throughout the day.
Susan Elliott is one of the Bike Walk Play JPA community organizers and a JPA resident. For her, the idea for the event arose out of her detours around the bridge construction.
“When the bridge closed, I would start riding my bike around … because it was faster than driving, plus the neighborhood was really beautiful,” Elliott said. “It really is a wonderful thing to be able to walk out your front door, hop on your bike and ride out to take your kids out for ice cream, or meet your friends or anything like that.”
Although the event was in part a celebration of the imminent opening of the bridge, which has been closed since 2010, it also provided an opportunity for community members to come together.
Aaron Hill is an oboist with the Charlottesville & University Symphony Orchestra who came for the morning yoga session sponsored by Ashtanga Yoga. He also lives in the area and feels that the event gave him a chance to connect with residents of the neighborhood.
“I feel like this is a very pedestrian neighborhood. A lot of the people who live here live here with the motivation of being able to walk to the University of Virginia,” Hill said. “We pass by each other every day, we say hello, [but] a lot of us don’t quite know each other yet and this is a nice way to get to do so.”
Elliott noted that once the idea for the event began to take shape, it gained momentum quickly in the neighborhood.
“We went door to door to let neighbors know what we were doing and get any feedback or concerns about it,” Elliott said. “Some people had to work Saturday morning, but everyone was very excited about it.”
Hardy Whitten is the president of the Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association. In addition to enhancing the community for its residents, he feels the event showcases the neighborhood to visitors, as well.
“I think it highlights the fact that we’re a very multi-transportation neighborhood, people have really enjoyed all the biking and all the walking,” Whitten said. “Plus folks have had a great time with all the activities; we’ve had puppets, juggling, vendors … I think it really highlights the regular personality and character of our neighborhood.”
Whitten added that the event was well attended, and hopes that it will be the first of many similar events for the neighborhood.
“We talked to VDOT and they estimate that we’ve had over a thousand people today,” Whitten said. “Lots of fun has been had by the kids and the families and everyone that’s come out.”
When asked whether Bike Walk Play JPA would become an annual event, Elliott was cautiously optimistic.
“This event is currently planned for just one time, but people have expressed interest in seeing it happen again,” Elliott said, adding that much of it would depend on reception following the event. “I would definitely like to be involved in it again if it goes well and if people would like to do it again.”