For a few hours on a sunny Saturday, the roar of traffic on West Broadway fell silent, replaced by giggling children skipping rope, double Dutch, in the street.
Last Saturday was the second-to-last Open Streets festival of the year. Once city crews blocked off the street, bikes and scooters took to the road, weaving around the pedestrians browsing hundreds of kiosks that stretched for blocks.
Stages dotted the route, hosting local bands and dancers and twirling acrobats. The food trucks were grilling, north Minneapolis entrepreneurs waved visitors over to their pop-up shops along the curb. Neighborhood organizations gave away free children's books, free produce, free flowers.
This is Minneapolis, the open street seemed to call. Isn't it wonderful?
"It is community and culture and music and food and laughter and smiles. That's what Open Streets is," said Shemeka Bogan, one of the event organizers. "There's something for everybody, and everybody can come together and experience this big melting pot that is north Minneapolis."
Open Streets West Broadway was the fourth of five street festivals planned this year by Our Streets Minneapolis, a group working to make the city more comfortable for anyone who moves through it without a car. For more than a decade, the nonprofit worked with the Minneapolis Department of Public Works to stage these events.
"There are so many people in this city who care deeply about their neighborhoods and their community," said Ember Rasmussen, community development and events manager for Our Streets. "Open Streets has really given folks a way to come together and be with each other in a safe public space that is not always accessible."
Our Streets hosted its first Open Streets event on Lyndale Avenue S. in 2011.
It will host its last Open Streets on Lyndale on Oct. 8.
The city announced last month that it was ending its contract with Our Streets. But Open Streets, the city promises, will continue.
"The event itself is a very valuable event," said Minneapolis Public Works Director Margaret Anderson Kelliher. "I think that sense of play and freedom is an important part of Open Streets, and I think everybody wants to see that continue going forward."
But Public Works wants out of Open Streets organizing. From now on, if the department throws a street party, they want it to be a celebration of one of their reconstructed streets or a really cool bus stop. Check the city's As You Go MPLS site for details when construction finally wraps up on Bryant Avenue.
Minneapolis foots the cost for traffic control, trash pickup and a host of other in-kind services during Open Streets. Now it just needs community partners willing to host a series of five or so street festivals on a budget of zero additional dollars from the city.
Every year, Minneapolis posted a zero-dollar contract to host Open Streets. Every year, Our Streets says, only they stepped up.
"Nobody else ever applied," Rasmussen said. "Nobody else would ever accept that [budget]. The only reason we have for so long is that we care deeply."
Open Streets was a full-time job for Rasmussen, who spent the year organizing five separate neighborhood events, each involving major street closures, hundreds of organizations and businesses, and thoroughfares full of visitors.
This year, Our Streets asked Minneapolis to increase its budget from zero to $851,000, noting that the city's 2024 budget set aside $600,000 for Warehouse District Live events downtown. In August, the city announced that it was ending its contract with Our Streets.
Our Streets loved Open Streets. But after years of getting reimbursed with trash pickup and traffic control, "we need to value our labor; value ourselves as a community service," Rasmussen said.
Open Streets Lyndale will be one last chance to see all the work the original organizers and their community partners put into this quirky, caring celebration of Minneapolis and its neighborhoods. One last chance to thank the people who let us dance in the streets for a day.
Elaina Boytor was a newcomer to south Minneapolis two years ago when someone told her and her partner that something was happening down the block on Lyndale.
They found a street empty of cars and full of life. There was live music and great food. People were doing yoga in the street. Children were playing games. Neighbors were window shopping and greeting each other's dogs.
"All of a sudden, everything in the city that was cool was in one spot," she said. "I think we walked away with about 15 pamphlets for different things we could do for the rest of the year."
They found out about the group that was organizing cross-country ski outings, picked up pamphlets about music lessons and met some of the city's many grassroots advocacy organizations.
"It just made us feel like, we can do this," said Boytor, who signed on as a volunteer at Open Streets West Broadway this year. "There are things for us here."