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The road is 'closed' and open to foot traffic for Hillfest

Envision people congregating on a street that is one of the most heavily traveled by motorized vehicles in the city . . . walking, bicycling, pushing strollers, pulling wagons and stopping to greet one another.

Envision people congregating on a street that is one of the most heavily traveled by motorized vehicles in the city . . . walking, bicycling, pushing strollers, pulling wagons and stopping to greet one another.

Street vendors, musicians, artists, youth activities, and decorated parking places will all be a part of the day. It's called HillFest 2012 and will become a reality that will take place along a two-block area on E. Fourth Street and Sixth Avenue on Sunday, Aug. 26 from 2 to 7 p.m. This is the third year for this event and it just keeps getting better.

Sixth Avenue East and E. Fourth Street is one of the busiest intersections in Duluth with over 20,000 cars traveling through it each day in addition to the continuous flow of buses, bicyclists and pedestrians all squeezing through this same public space.

While not awful by national and state standards, it does have one of the highest crash-rates in the City of Duluth.

Sixth Avenue East provides quick and convenient access to two major institutions: Essentia Health/SMDC and St. Luke's Hospital, plus serves as the main through-route up and down the Hillside as well as easy access to Mesaba and Woodland Avenues.

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Neighborhoods are divided by this barrier that is difficult to bridge, but yet all the young children now attend the same elementary school.

It is unpleasant enough for adults to walk along Sixth Avenue or Fourth Street with traffic speeding along, despite there being sidewalks on both sides. Now think of the difficulty of the crossing for the children to meet with their playmates or for others just wanting to go to the nearest store or to visit a friend or relative.

For this one afternoon all motorized traffic will be re-routed. Sixth Avenue East will be closed to motor vehicle traffic from Third to Fifth Streets and Fourth Street from Fifth to Seventh Avenues East -- some like to refer to it as open -- to everyone where people can take their time and simply enjoy the uniqueness of feeling safe to browse, shop, partake in the activities and just hang out and talk with their neighbors.

The second the traffic barriers are put up, quiet overcomes the area and in just that instant the impact that this street and avenue has on the surrounding area is realized.

HillFest was the brainchild of Archie Davis, who had the vision to remove the barrier of Sixth Avenue East and unify the neighborhood even if for only a short period time. This year HillFest is being

organized by an all-volunteer group of neighborhood residents who want to continue to celebrate his vision of "livin' in the Hillside."

Free youth activities from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. will include, among other things, a climbing wall, the Zoo Mobile, craft projects, interactive storytellers, face painting, foot races and an all-wheel-nonmotorized (bike, scooter, wagon, buggy) and walking parade.

The New Scenic Cafรฉ, Valentini's, Duluth Grill, Lake Avenue Restaurant, Essentia, Chester Creek Cafe, and Zeitgeist will be also be participating in the 2012 Iron Beet cooking event this year in front of the Whole Foods Co-op. Beginning at 3 p.m., chefs will present their dishes

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to a panel of Hillside celebrity food-tasters for bragging rights of the best dish. Stick around for the Tofu Toss fundraiser at 4:30 p.m.

Throughout the entire day there will be food, merchandise, and information vendors along Fourth Street and music on stage by Don't Sweat September, 2ONE8, Hattie Peterson, Aaron Gall & the Likely Story, plus DJ Nola. Other entertainment will be spoken word, jerk dancing, a dunk tank fundraiser, and stilt walkers. HillFest is not your average street festival - it's as diverse as the neighborhood!

Mona Cheslak and James Gittemeier are both East Hillside residents and members of the Hillfest planning committee. Cheslak is president of the East Hillside Community Club and Gittemeier is a transportation planner with the Duluth-Superior Metropolitan Interstate Council, a program of the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission.

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