40,000 attend arts festival downtown
Pecan Street event offered crafts, music
by Sally Claunch
Plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the lower 90s brought about 40,000 people to the Pecan Street Arts Festival over the weekend to eat, drink, listen to music, watch dancers, ride carnival rides and peruse a myriad of arts and crafts booths in downtown Arlington.
Lana Wolff, executive director for Downtown Arlington Inc., said the weather was the reason for the highest turnout in the event's two-year history.
"Last year we had wind and rain one of the days, which cut down on attendance," she said.
The organization, a group dedicated to revitalizing the downtown area, has the festival twice a year on Pecan Street between west Border and Fourth streets. The festival proceeds go toward beautifying and revitalizing downtown. Officials say this revitalization positively impacts Arlington and the university.
Joe Cussen said he didn't know about the benefits of the revitalization project. The speech junior said the event was just fun.
"I check it out every year," he said. "This is my third one."
He said he liked the music but that some of the arts and crafts were too expensive.
"Some of the artwork is upwards of $2,000," he said. "I can't see people busting out that kind of money at a thing like this."
Wolff said bringing people like Cussen downtown was the main goal for the event.
She said that one of the first steps to the revitalization effort is for people to know where downtown is.
"We wanted to get people to identify downtown," she said. "Some people may say, 'I didn't know we had a downtown.'"
Although admission to the event was free, a percentage of the proceeds from beverage sales benefited Downtown Arlington, Inc. Wolff said the money will go to purchase trees and benches for the area.
"We want to have pedestrian-friendly green spaces and parks and to get people to live, work and play downtown," she said.
She said that aside from an aesthetic improvement, downtown revitalization will have a positive economic impact on the city.
"Revitalization of downtown will expand the tax base, bring in new businesses and raise the quality of merchants," she said. "Besides, what's the alternative?"
University President Robert Witt sits on the board of directors for Downtown Arlington Inc., and he said downtown revitalization will benefit the university.
"I think the revitalization of downtown Arlington is critically important to the future of UTA," he said. "Having a neighborhood that offers students a rich mix of opportunities in term of restaurants and other types of retail establishments will go a long way to enhancing the university's attractiveness to prospective students."
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