by Ben Shine
Broad Ripple Park came alive last summer. The Listen Local series, curated by Musical Family Tree, brought hipsters and former cool kids who are now raising kids to enjoy performances from Indiana musicians. And, pairing perfectly with those ironic fashion-clad folks, there was yummy food from food trucks and craft beer. It was a blast. And then, over Labor Day weekend, WARM Fest raised the bar. With three days of music, interrupted by a serious storm, the music festival, with a focus on restoring our collective connection to the White River, activated the entire park. A vintage shopping area, VIP riverboat performances and music from national, regional and Indianapolis acts brought new life and energy to what is generally a sleepy park that specializes in hosting tots on a playground and sports teams on its playing fields.
In her recent column in the Indianapolis Star, Erika Smith made the case that, while new funding for Indy Parks' infrastructure is great, it's not especially awesome unless the city can also provide the programming to create a good reason to get people into those parks. In other words: If you build it, they may not come.
Seriously, though, we all know that municipal services aren't all that well funded. In my family, we use parks all the time -- from the to-be-renewed Tarkington Park to the pocket parks in our Watson-McCord neighborhood. And don't mention the splash pad at Broadway Park to our toddler, unless you intend to take him there immediately or endure repeated yells of "why-wo!" (which is his word for water). Regardless of our personal choices, a robustly programmed park system in our city will have to rely on community partners. And, it's probably better if it does.
Last year Listen Local and WARM Fest were possible because the city was open to partnership. And community partners -- Jon Rogers, Jeb Banner and Dan Ripley, to name a few -- wee happy to provide good content. Musical Family Tree has decided to move on with other activities this summer, but WARM Fest is picking up the mantle not only for Labor Day weekend but throughout the summer. Its WARM Ups will take place the second Sunday of June, July and August, which means that the first one is this Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. And I'm pretty excited about them. Here's why:
Erika Smith also argues that community support is necessary to bring people to the parks. I hope that, all around Indianapolis, other organizations might look at what's happening in Broad Ripple Park, as well as what has happened in city parks here and beyond for years (orchestras, plays, pick-up basketball -- all of it). We can't wait around for a grant or additional funding for Indy Parks to make it happen. It's clear that they're open to being a canvas for creative ideas. Let's take them up on it, as audiences and creators.