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4th annual block party: Life bubbles along

UPDATED: What enveloped me most the day of the fourth Arlington Alive block party in Broadway Plaza on Saturday, June 25, were the astronomical bubbles.

Near the Central Fire Station, joyous youngsters dipped flexible, triangular plastic into a suspect solution. Then they swung their arms and let the afternoon air give birth to broad, filmy sausages that expanded as they flew among the children and the parents hefting infants or the elderly taking it easy.

Energy and elation eddied to the blue sky: bubbles.

These creations were uncontrolled, unsold, art without artifice.

Other works played out at the plaza -- a place that reminds us of that adage: The more things change the more they stay the same.


An estimated 750 people attended over six hours. When I was there, from 12:45 to 2:45 p.m., a medium crowd milled. At the Play Time table, young faces focused on crafts. La Victoria Taqueria's sidewalk Mexican food gladly blocked Alton Street, and a woman vied for a meatless burrito. 

Arlington Alive! Logo

For part of a day, the plaza took a new shape, not the one envisioned by town planners and consultants.

Long term, the plaza is due for change, as the town has made public plans to do that. While those proposals wind through the public process, the plaza's current reality shows some turmoil. Some businesses have left or are leaving, while longtime owners hope for the best.

Most on the crowd enjoying the block party likely were not thinking about any of that, though the reality lurked.

The skies were blue, the Saturday warm and the block did party.

On the main stage, carved out of a parking lot, the Band That Time Forgot remembered to turn up the volume on Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride," closing its set. Much of the audience hid in shade between monuments to military defenders. One boy, perhaps 5, jumped forward to the beat of the 1968 hit, shaking his head madly.

Next up, Tom Davison, one of the prime volunteer movers of the block party, announced the Bo Winiker Jazz Band. Its change of pace came with a treat:

Joining Cyndy Gaviglio, who sings with the Boston Pops on New Year's Eve, was her sister, Carla. They blended in a mean version of the Andrews Sisters' "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B."

Across from the main stage stood Carla's empty storefront, in search of a new lease. Her shop, the Artful Heart, has moved around the corner to Medford Street.

Winiker slid from the World War II to Dion and the Belmonts from the late '50s and early '60s. Highlight? The audience got to sing the refrain: "... Why must I be a teenager in love?"

Blowing balloons at Brodawy Plaza block party on June 25, 2016.

The party was contained this year to the plaza because preservation work on the Dallin Art Museum ruled out Whittemore Park at the Center, where last year many crowded to tents in the shade. 

A walk around the party block this year yielded these observations:

-- Among newcomers were Robbins Library, and Mexican sculptor Rafael Ramirez shared space with familiar faces Alberto Guzman and April Ranck of the Arlington International Film Festival, returning to town in October, at the Capitol Theater.

-- Among old favorites, Regent Theatre (co-owner Leland Stein) and the Book Rack (Mike Buglio) served up entertainment and literacy from the same table.

-- Seeking a new home, the Arlington Center for Arts found six hours of permanence just past the wall behind which people sat among brilliant flowers near Common Ground.

-- Over at the puppet theater, buffeted by a breeze, children in a row inched near to the Scotty & Max puppet show. "It’s too hot," one youngster said but kept watching J.J. Monster.

-- Back at the main stage, 'TarBone, an Arlington-based group, added eclectic jazz funk top the afternoon, but the group appeared to leave few in a funk.

-- Some had their faces painted, while others found shady spots to lounge, on grass or in front of monuments, as the photo series with this column shows.

-- Earlier, Zhen Ren Chuan owner Charles DeVirgilio said a cadre of students demonstrated Tai Chi and Baguazhang: eight ages 9 to 14, 6 to 9, four 5 to 6 and five adults.

A walk around the rocking block this year led me to wonder about the original plan for the party. Conceived at a June 2012 brainstorming session, the annual party was to provide a "signature" arts event.

As a continuing supporter of the party, including as a financial partner last year, YourArlington applauds what the event aims to do. The question is whether the arts events reach signature status. Or is it a six-hour life in a bubble?

As I walked back to my car, I passed an artist juggling the spray cans he uses to spritz his creations, and I thought: 'We need to expand the notion of art here or remain in a bubble."

Let's think about it for next year.

Most booths yet, organizer says

Tom Davison, a lead organizer of the event, provided the following obervations June 27:

"The Arlington Alive Summer Arts Block Party went very well this year. We had 40 booths about evenly split between artists/artisans and local businesses. That is the most booths we have had in the four years of this event. There was a great mix of continuing and new participants which really helped enliven the day.

"We also expanded the performance repertoire this year, which went very well. I had a lot of people come up to me to say how great all the music was the whole day, and that it was a great mix of styles.

"That is exactly what we hoped to achieve! We had musical performances from groups playing jazz, folk, rock & roll, swing, big band classics and acoustic pop to a saxophone orchestra. Other performances included various styles of martial arts demonstrations, to a middle eastern dance troupe.

"The kids activities and kid performers were also expanded this year and were very popular.

"Play Time again anchored the family arts area with its hugely popular crafts booth. We had a Lego building tent, a puppet show, a couple of masked theater performances, face painting and tattoos, as well as a giant soap-bubble play area.

"Our food vendors were all local restaurants, and most just about sold out.

"Attendance was steady. I'd estimate a total of about 750 people attended through out the day.

"We are taking a small break, but planning for next year's Summer Arts Block Party will be starting soon."


The following was published earler:

Here is what was scheduled June 25. All events were free:

From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Arlington Center, visitors will hear an eclectic mix of live musical performances featuring ...


-- The swinging sounds of The Winniker Band,

-- Old-fashioned rock and roll with The Band That Time Forgot,

-- Funky jazz with TarBone

-- Bluegrass & Texas swing with The Bagboys

-- Smooth harmonies and pop hits with Aunt MimiThe WillStockings and The Saxyderms; and

-- Seyyide Dance.

Artisan booths display their creations at the Arts Promenade, featuring unique visual artists’ wares, including live pottery wheel-throwing demos, jewelry, photography, ceramics, crochet and ink painting.

Those involved offered exciting theater. The award-winning Behind The Mask Theatre presented its show "Once Upon A Time" -- a pair of magical stories from the Brothers Grimm and Italo Calvino, performed in mask.

See also the Scotty & Max puppet show, arts-and-crafts tent, costume photo booth, Lego table, face-painting and more.

Hark to the Hobgoblin, laugh with foolish Arlecchino, understand the language of animals, battle Turkish pirates, as we enchant you into a wondrous world of rags to riches, the hero's quest, and true love lost and found.

Local kids from Kid Care Theatre will present "Fractured Fairy Tales" and relive the days of yore, of wit, wisdom and wise cracks.

Families enjoyed many fun activities at the festival: LEGO making, a dedicated arts and crafts tent, face-painting and a cool photo booth, to name a few.

The food pavilion included some of the finest restaurants in town, including Thana Thai, Menotomy Grill and Tavern, Common Ground and Andrina´s Pizzeria and Chilly Cow ice cream serving a wide array of delicious foods for purchase.

Off-street parking aws free at the Russell Commons Lot. This event was accessible via MBTA buses: 77, 79, 350 and 80.

For more information, visit or on Facebook >>

June 24, 2015: Extended block starts summer with a Green party

This announcement was published Wednesday, June 1, 2016 and updated with news and comment on June 27.

Location (Map)

ADUs part 3: A Family Story


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