Community celebration returns to East Lake Street

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The Open Streets festival made its way back to Minneapolis for the first time in three years on Saturday by shutting down car traffic so people could enjoy the neighborhood on foot.

Organizers blocked off East Lake Street to car traffic for 20 blocks and opened it up to pedestrians and vendors. The main focus is to get people out of their cars and into the streets to embrace the community.

From 2nd Avenue South trailing all the way down to 22nd Avenue South, East Lake Street transformed into a car-free environment bustling with foot traffic and culture.

“It feels free. It feels nice. It feels like what community is supposed to feel like,” Crystal Brown, an attendee, said.

Historic displays, vendors and entertainment covered the area for the “Open Streets East Lake” event.

“People are hungry to connect with each other. Lake Street is vibrant. It’s thriving and we’re so glad that the community is out here to experience that,” Ember Rasmussen, Our Streets community development and events manager, said.

But it’s more than just a festival.

Organizers said they want people to experience what city streets would be like if cars and traffic were not a factor.

The nonprofit, Our Streets, is dedicated to transforming streets in the city into a place where people can celebrate Minneapolis’ diversity and creativity while walking, biking or rolling.

“It’s a very different experience than when we’re in a car. We’re isolated. We’re speeding past businesses and restaurants,” Rasmussen said.

But this weekend was different.

Hundreds of people slowed down and took a stroll down the popular street.

“It feels good that people are spending time down here and not being afraid to be open to different perspectives and cultures. It’s really nice,” attendee Aaron Bastin said.

Future events for the 2022 season include Open Streets West Broadway on Saturday, Sept. 10 and Open Streets Minnehaha on Saturday, Oct. 1.