A ‘local social’
Evenings on Eighth fire up next Wednesday

SideStory: Clean Commute Week

Durango Farmers Market goers purchase a bundle of onions during a recent market. A similar scene starts up just around the corner on June 23. Evenings on Eighth will meet every Wednesday and fill a section of Eighth Street with live music, artists, food, drink and a mid-week farmers market./Photo by Stephen Eginoire

by Anna Thomas

Just when you thought Durango’s dance card was full this summer, another event is about to hit downtown. Evenings on Eighth, or E8, is a new community market and street fair that will be held on 8th Street between Main Avenue and the railroad tracks. Every Wednesday night this summer, the 8th Street block will light up with artists, live music, street food and a mid-week Farmers Market.

The festival is modeled in part after similar music- and art-oriented festivals around the country, including Detroit’s River Days and Ft. Worth’s huge Main Street Arts Festival. But while those festivals are one-shot deals held over single weekends, Evenings on Eighth provides the Durango community with a place to gather in the sunshine every week.

“The people in our town are always looking for something fun,” said Carol Clark, co-owner of Eco Logic Events, the organizer of event. “I consider this a local’s social.”

Artist booths will be core fixtures each Wednesday, and everything from fine art to jewelry to fashion will be on display, and available for purchase. In addition, each week there will be a “live art” component, where onlookers can watch as glass blowers and painters create art on the spot, or try their hand at throwing pottery on a wheel.

A stage will be set up in front of Pongas, and a different local band will play each week. Music will range from rockabilly to bluegrass to classical. Talks are in the works with Music in the Mountains about the possibility of gracing downtown with chamber or orchestra music as part of its annual music festival. Didn’t catch the Salt Fire Circus last time around? You may get a chance this summer, as the Salt Fire Circus Band and street performers are throwing around the possibility of performing as part of the 8th Street entourage. There is also the possibility of an American Idol type or open mic contest sometime as well.

Each of the four local breweries, Ska, Carvers, Steamworks and Durango Brewing, will serve their artisan crafted ales once a month, so patrons can sample a different brewery’s craft each week. Guy Drew Vineyards will hold court each Wednesday as well, providing locally produced wines.

Several different food vendors are slated to serve street style fare. Zia Taqueria will have its cart set up, slinging tacos and burritos. The Chip Peddler will also be on hand to sell locally made potato and tortilla chips. Time-tested classics of street food like hot dogs and ice cream are on the menu, too. A Wednesday night Iron Horse Chef event is a possibility, bringing chefs from Durango’s top restaurant together to compete for the best dish.

There are plenty of activities to keep the kiddos entertained as well. The Boys and Girls Club has been busy constructing an oversized checkerboard, with the board made out of canvas, and the checkers of the tops of 5-gallon paint buckets. They are also making a set of giant building blocks, using sanded-down blocks of reclaimed wood. Kids can play in the cardboard castle, or get hands on with exhibits from Durango Discovery Museum.

Last spring’s downtown fire that erupted in the Newman Building, which houses Joel’s and Colorado Pongas, had a deep economic impact on the 8th Street block, said Clark. Joel’s was closed for repairs for six months after the blaze. Many Eighth Street businesses, said Clark, see this new event as a boon.

“People just don’t stop on that block,” she said. “This gives those businesses exposure and increases traffic.”

The goal of Evenings on Eighth is to be a zero-waste event, meaning that all materials will be recycled or reused. Guidelines were issued to food and art vendors pointing out sustainable alternatives to traditional products. For instance, instead of single-serve condiment packets, food vendors are encouraged to use bulk pump-style containers, to use tree-free materials like sugar-cane plates, and to donate leftover food to local shelters. Attendees to the event are likewise encouraged to bring their own cups for drinks and to walk, ride or take the bus, as 8th Street is around the corner from both the Transit Center and the Animas River Trail.

One of the most innovative applications of sustainability is the E8 wine bottle tumbler. Guy Drew Vineyards provided used bottles from its tasting room, which were then cut in half and sanded down, creating two drinking utensils – a hefty 24-ounce tumbler made from the body of the bottle, and a recycled wine glass made from it’s neck. The tumblers will be available for purchase and to take home, and will include a free beer.

While benefiting local artists, musicians and food vendors, the festival is also a fund-raiser for a featured nonprofit. The beneficiary of the first five weeks will be Bicycle Lemonade, a local nonprofit that refurbishes and sells used bikes. The Sustainability Alliance of Southwest Colorado and the Bootleggers Society will receive the proceeds from the rest of the summer’s events.

The June 23 kickoff E8 event coincides with Bike to Work Day and is smack dab in the middle of the City’s

Clean Commute Week (see sidebar). The City of Durango is partnering with Eco Logic to hold a drawing to give away a grand prize that Wednesday.

Evenings on Eighth’s inaugural night is set for next Wed., June 23, from 4-8 p.m.

For more information, or to become a vendor, please e-mail Carol Clark at carol@ecologicevents.com