Urban nights springs forward

Celebrate the season with family, friends and fine arts

By  Emma Jarman

The Main Street Chalk Walk from September 2010’s Urban Nights. Photos courtesy of Downtown Dayton Partnership.

Everyone loves a block party. There’s good music, great food and all the neighbors come out to dance in the street. However, not all blocks have parties, and not all parties invite the entire block. But, if you are reading this page, you and all your friends are invited to participate in the 2011 spring installment of Dayton’s bi-annual Urban Nights festival. No RSVP necessary, just show up with an appetite for great food, spectacular works of performance and art, and participation in downtown Dayton’s largest street party.
This spring, Urban Nights will be held April 13, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. As the sun goes down, the stages heat up with live performances by multitudes of Dayton’s talented dancers, artists, performers and a variety of local entertainment. Back by popular demand this year is the Community Stage, located at the corner of Third and Jefferson Streets, that will showcase not only performances by passionate and gifted people from the community, but will also host an open call for the musically masochistic to karaoke the night away from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Typical Urban Nights extravaganzas play forum to the opening of local restaurants with discounts and some extended hours, artists airing out their work street side. Pioneering exhibits sponsored by local businesses and galleries litter the sidewalks and downtown’s residential options open for touring to the sweet sound of street music performed by local performers and troupes.
This year, aside from the usual meal deals and residential showcases, Urban Nights is trying something new. For the past few months, students from the Stivers School for the Arts visual arts department have been in fierce competition to design a mural for Urban Nights’ Paint the Street event. When the outline of winning artist Michael G. Carr’s 175 feet by 40 feet design is unveiled, the template will take up half of Second Street between Ludlow and Main Streets. Urban Nights invites attendees to fill in the open design with the liquid chalk provided in each assigned square. Sponsored by Key Bank, the “unlock your possibilities” themed mural will add not only to the temporary beautification of the city, but also will be a testament to the tightly knit community that Dayton and its surrounding areas boast.
“[The mural] has a very downtown feel,” said Krystal Leuketic, special events coordinator for the Downtown Dayton Partnership. “It’s very abstract with lots of swirls and squares and colors.”
Paint the Street is one of the more participatory artistic endeavors to be seen as you walk the streets of Urban Nights, but it is not the only one. Interactive hot spots will be scattered along the streets with activities including a free, open-air photo booth and jelly bean art on the same block as Paint the Street.
If you’re more exercise junkie than art enthusiast, pedal around Courthouse Square on a yellow bike to the triumphant melodies of the Schuster Center Celebratory Choir and Children’s Choir during the 5 p.m. hour.
The Yellow Bike program, presented by the Life Enrichment Center, is another event particular to the spring 2011 installment of Urban Nights.
Debuting May 13, the Yellow Bike program will release 50 bright yellow bikes throughout the city for free, public use. These bikes are being made available to the City of Dayton not only to encourage bike transportation, but also to provide a free means of transportation, promote a healthy lifestyle and give access to bicycles for anyone, anytime. The vision of the program is that urban trekkers will pick up a bike wherever they see one, ride it to their destination and leave it there for someone else to use. The plan in motion for the Yellow Bikes at Urban Nights launch party is to keep them in Dayton proper.
“There has been discussion of expanding to surrounding areas including UD, but for now we’d like them to be stay in the downtown core,” said Leuketic.
Cyclists of all ages and skill levels are invited to participate in the Urban Bikes at Urban Nights community ride through downtown alongside Dayton police officers and perhaps a few city commissioners. The parade of bike-friendliness starts at 5:15 p.m. at Don Crawford Plaza in front of Fifth-Third Field.
As a bi-annual celebration of all things Dayton, Urban Nights only hopes to further instill a sense of community in its inhabitants. It is a showcase of local talent and culture unlike anything else. So go see Jasper the Colossal, a local indie band perform on the Main Stage at 6:30 p.m. Or check out the Urban Nights Art Show at the Southern Belle across from Fifth-Third Field to peruse the handmade goods of 13 local artists and vendors. But, no matter what, put on your dancing shoes, don your critic’s cap, pocket some napkins and find out for yourself what sort of block party the City of Dayton can really throw.

For more information and a full Urban Night’s list of events and participating vendors, visit www.downtowndayton.org. Follow Urban Nights on Facebook at www.facebook.com/urbannightsdayton.

Reach DCP freelance writer Emma Jarman at emmajarman@daytoncitypaper.com

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