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Amherst’s downtown increases street performances

AMHERST — Beginning Saturday, downtown streets will be filled with music and other entertainment during the spring, summer and fall weekends.

The effort is the work of the Business Improvement District, which is recruiting musicians to perform on the sidewalks in an initiative called Play Out Amherst.

“We’re really hoping this brings a feeling of vibrancy to downtown,” said Alex Krogh-Grabbe, the BID’s executive director.

The BID is paying a $25 stipend and encouraging performers to seek donations from passersby.

The streets are already fully booked for Saturday, when musicians will perform in two-hour blocks on portions of North Pleasant Street and Main Street. Krogh-Grabbe expects the performers to be set up in places that include the sidewalks in front of Food for Thought Books and CVS Pharmacy, Zanna and The Toy Box and at the main intersection near Subway restaurant.

While some musician already set up on their own to play downtown, Krogh-Grabbe said the BID program will increase the variety of music. Those who already perform are encouraged to apply to be part of the program.

So far, Play Out Amherst is made up of mostly musicians, though other performers, such as living statues, jugglers and mimes, are also welcome, he said.

Signs next to each performance space will indicate the BID’s involvement.

Meanwhile, the BID has chosen the recipients to share about $3,000 that will be spent to expand existing events and support new ones downtown.

One recipient is the Leisure Services and Supplemental Education for its Halloween party, which will add a pumpkin roll and more live entertainment. The event already includes window painting at downtown businesses, a costume parade and activities at the Bangs Community Center. Krogh-Grabbe said organizers are looking to hold the pumpkin roll along North Pleasant Street, with the road briefly being closed.

Another recipient is the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County’s Daffodil Fun Run. The money will be used to bring more live music to Kendrick Park when the road race takes place April 28.

The Wednesday Market at Kendrick Park will get BID money to pay The Primate Fiasco to perform at one of its first markets of the season. The market begins May 1.

Two new events are also supported by the BID sponsorship. The first was Tuesday, when High Horse Brewery hosted Plug into the Creative Valley, a creative networking session.

The second is TEDxUMassAmherst, an event set for Saturday at the University of Massachusetts featuring lectures from innovators and entrepreneurs. While it is on campus and organized by students, the BID supports it, Krogh-Grabbe said, because 10 tickets to attend the conference are being raffled for pick up at downtown businesses.

A small amount of money will also be donated to the Amherst Regional Middle School chorus. While the school is outside the district, Krogh-Grabbe said the chorus plays an important role in the yearly Merry Maple celebration.

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