When urban living meets active living, the result is an open yoga class in New York’s Times Square, a game of bike polo on Atlanta’s Peachtree Street or even a hopscotch course along Jackson’s Congress Street.
All will happen April 27 as part Jackson Streets Alive, a free festival and movement to temporarily close streets to automobile traffic and open them up for walking, bicycling, dancing and socializing. Congress Street in downtown Jackson, from the Capitol Street intersection to the state Capitol building, will be transformed into an active living space. Perpendicular streets along the route between North President and West streets — East Amite, Yazoo and Mississippi streets — also will be open for street activities.
Bike Walk Mississippi, a statewide advocacy group based in Jackson, is spearheading the inaugural family friendly festival and hopes to make it an annual event. Volunteers are needed to organize or sponsor activities. Jackson is among the first cities in the southeast to host such an event. Festivals also are planned for Pensacola, Fla., Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C.
“We believe by creating a place where physical activity is easy, fun and accessible — no matter your ability, age or income — we can begin to tackle the need for a healthier, happier and safer state for all people on the roads,” said Melody Moody, Bike Walk Mississippi executive director.
“Given Mississippi’s issues with obesity and health, something like Jackson Streets Alive creates the idea of making Jackson our playground,” Moody said.
The city of Jackson has thrown its support behind the event, having been recognized for its efforts to curb obesity as part of the Let’s Move! Cities Towns and Counties campaign, said Catherine Lee, special projects officer for the city of Jackson.
“We think it’s a really innovative event that will encourage families to get out,” Lee said.
Blending music, fitness, food and art, Jackson Streets Alive will feature free outdoor yoga classes at Smith Park, dance lessons, hula-hooping, bike rides and skateboarding in a non-intimidating environment, Moody said. The “cyclovia” or open street festival also will feature live music, food from local restaurants, face painting and interactive arts and crafts for children.
Scotta Brady, owner and instructor at Butterfly Yoga in Jackson, has signed on to teach an outdoor yoga class at Smith Park. She already teaches a weekly guerilla yoga class at a surprise outdoor location when weather permits.
“It’s an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, get some exercise and hang out with your friends,” said Brady, who’s also media coordinator for the Mississippi Tennis Association. MTA will provide pop-up tennis courts for the event.
“Our purpose is to bring more awareness to what there is to do outdoors, as well as bring more awareness downtown,” Brady said.
The festival is part of a movement known as the Open Streets Project, a partnership between the Alliance for Biking & Walking and The Street Plans Collaborative. The Open Streets Project has more than 80 documented initiatives in North America, and organizers say open streets are increasingly common in cities seeking innovative ways to achieve environmental, social, economic and public health goals.
Moody said Jackson Streets Alive is a stepping stone for other open street festivals throughout the state.
“We want to integrate the open streets movement throughout Mississippi ... Natchez Streets Alive, Oxford Streets Alive, any city that is interested,” Moody said. “Our goal is to make it easier for people to get out and get active.”