Racine's biggest street festival, Party on the Pavement, returns to Downtown on Saturday. And while the family-friendly event will feature much of its traditional entertainment, food and fun, this year's Party will also have some new attractions.
One is the "Racine Reads: Dream Big! Reading Zone," located on the Sam Johnson Parkway. The Reading Zone will feature family story times, giveaways of books and Barnes & Noble gift cards, and photo opportunities with Booker the Owl - all of which are part of a communitywide, year-long initiative sponsored by SC Johnson and designed to encourage reading among Racine's elementary school children.
Reading Zone activities will start at 11 a.m. with an introduction of the "Racine Reads" program, which challenges Racine's public, private and parochial students in grades K-5 to collectively read one million books during the 2011-2012 year. The school that reads the most books will receive a library makeover valued at $100,000, and other incentives - from pizza parties to iPads - will be offered to students throughout the year, according to Kelly Semrau, spokeswoman for SC Johnson.
"It is an audacious goal," said Semrau. "And wouldn't it be fun if the kids could do it?"
Working with community partners including the Racine Public Library and the Cops 'n Kids Reading Center, SC Johnson hopes to get kids, parents and the entire community engaged in the program, working toward reaching its goal, she said. The overall idea is to help kids see how fundamental reading skills are to their future success.
"We don't think any other community is doing anything like this and if we accomplish this, it will be a point of pride for Racine," Semrau said. "We hope to be able to document it and share it with other school districts and entities."
Next to the Reading Zone, in the 600 block of Main Street, families can find Party on the Pavement's expanded Fun Zone, with rides. a rock-climbing wall, a giant inflatable slide and pirate ship, bouncy houses and more, according to Jean Garbo of the Downtown Racine Corp. Rides will cost between $2 and $4 each, with all-day, unlimited access wristbands priced at $15.
There will be no Ferris wheel in this year's Fun Zone, according to the DRC. A Ferris wheel at last year's Party on the Pavement had to be shut down after a mechanical failure caused riders to be stranded on the ride for up to three hours. No one was injured.
"Each year, we try to add a new element to the event and this year we are excited to offer an expanded Fun Zone which will offer more rides and activities than ever," Garbo said.
Also new this year will be a "unique and antique" auto show on Sixth Street. It will feature more than 20 vehicles ranging from a Porsche to military trucks, with a dragster, a modified trike motorcycle and antique vehicles in between, according to Joe Mooney, who is organizing the display. Vehicles will be parked along Sixth Street starting at Park Avenue and extending down to Pepi's Deli on the West end (as well as a recently restored 1916 Model T Ford touring car in the 500 block of Park Avenue). And, when you are done checking out all the "wheels," you can enjoy live music at the Hometown Stage, just east of the intersection of Sixth and Grand.
Music and more
Live music will also play throughout the day at four other Party on the Pavement stages. The day's entertainment lineup includes a variety of local performers - from Mark Paffrath, Jeff Ward and Acoustic Soul to 89 Mojo, Step-in-Out and Lyden Moon - as well as regional bands such as Chicago's Supernaut and Madison-based rockers, Sunspot, who recently licensed their "Go, Pack!" song to FOX Sports for the NFL postseason and Super Bowl Coverage.
Returning to Sixth Street this year will be the annual Art Walk, with more than 20 exhibiting artists showing everything from jewelry and one-of-a-kind hand bags to paintings, photography, woodwork and vintage books. Artists booths can be found in the 300 and 400 blocks of Sixth, and demonstrations will include watercolors by Don Ricchio, chalk art on the street by the Spectrum Gallery and educational art programs by the Racine Art Museum.
If you are looking for some laughs during the Party, stop in at the Sixth Street Theatre, 318 Sixth St., where the Over Our Head Players will offer free performances from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Two 10-minute comedies, both of which were 2010 Snowdance Festival runners-up, will be performed in rotation throughout the afternoon. They are "Crisis Line," by Dan Borengasser and "Kill Your Husband, Inc.," by David L. James. Reservations for the free performances will only be taken at the door on performance day. Both shows are acceptable for most ages, with a rating equivalent to that of a PG movie, according to the OOHP. For more information on the Free Theatre Festival, call (262) 632-6802.
Downtown's eateries, as well as a variety of area organizations, will offer a bounty of food for sale throughout the day. The POTP menu will feature everything from traditional festival foods such as hot dogs and brats, cheese curds and fresh roasted corn, to international cuisine items including paella, Korean sushi rolls and butternut squash soup. Food booths can be found throughout the festival grounds and there will be a Beverage Garden on Monument Square. A detailed, downloadable map, showing all that Party on the Pavement has to offer, is available at www.partyonthepavement.com
If You Go
WHAT: Party on the Pavement
WHEN: Noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1
WHERE: Main and Sixth streets, Downtown
INFO: Go to www.partyonthepavement.com