Gathering at People’s Park for Kirkwood Avenue: All over the road

A little more than a year ago, on Juneteenth of 2020, the mural at People’s Park at the east end of Kirkwood Avenue got a new, unsanctioned overlay of lettering that reads “Black Lives Matter.”

That came during a summer of protests, nationwide and locally, prompted by the killing by Minneapolis police of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man.

The overlay remains in place, because the Bloomington Arts Commission was not in a rush to “buff” the mural or to replace it with a different one, even if that’s likely in the cards at some point.

On Thursday evening, Eva Allen’s original mural, together with the “Black Lives Matter” lettering, gave an extra pop of background color to park visitors who were weaving together floral crowns from bunches of flowers.

The crowns of flowers were a “make and take” hosted by Downtown Bloomington, Inc.—something the DBI normally includes at its “Taste of Bloomington” event. The annual gathering, for thousands to gather and sample local food offerings, was transformed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It became a take-out only affair called “Taste of Bloomington to Go.”

Thursday’s park gathering covered a lot of civic territory—networking for the hospitality industry, a celebration of new light strands strung over Kirkwood, remarks from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, and the regular People’s Park concert series.

Like the new lights, the event was a bit “all over the road.”

That’s also a lyric from the Easton Corbin tune. It was the second song in Hank Ruff’s set, which he performed with Daniel Deckard on lead guitar and John Donlon on drums. Ruff led off with “Folsom Prison Blues” swapping in Bloomington for the iconic reference to San Antone.

Ruff followed Charlie Jesseph, who delivered a solo set of soul numbers on acoustic guitar.

Ruff’s dad, Andy, was one of at least two former Bloomington city councilmembers who attended. Kirk White, who served on the council in the late 1980s, is now probably more familiar as Indiana University’s vice-president for strategic partnerships. White has been the face of IU at the regular news conferences held by local leaders on pandemic response.

The current city council’s end was held up by Ron Smith and Sue Sgambelluri. The county council had a presence in Kate Wiltz.

Several city department heads attended, along with the newest city employee, after-hours ambassador, Charles Culp. That position has been vacant for about a year, after Jenna Whiteaker left to take a position in Iowa.

News about Culp’s hire came during Hamilton’s turn at the mic.

Hamilton focused his remarks on the temporary light poles on Kirkwood—eight poles on each side of the block between Dunn and Grant streets—and strands of lights that stretch between them.

The concrete block bases were provided by the city. The anchoring bolts, the fabrication of the poles out of old conduit, and the stringing of the lights, were provided by Cassady Electrical Contractors.

Mae Cassady and her son, Randy, were on hand to hear the mayor’s thanks, which came as a few sparks of lightning flickered through the evening sky.

“I want to give final thanks to our partners, Cassady Electric, who actually know how to work with the dangerous electricity, so that it’s not just us figuring it out.” Hamilton continued, “They’re a long-time Bloomington company, and they worked so creatively to make things happen.”

Hamilton described the summer closure of Kirkwood Avenue to automobile traffic and the new light strands as “a new kind of living.” He said, “It’s really fun, and we’ve risen together and we figured out how to do it.”

Hank Ruff called the configuration of the street “New Kirkwood.” He told the crowd, “I was always wanting Kirkwood to get closed down to cars in a deal like this. So let’s celebrate!”

With that, Ruff launched into the Easton Corbin cover: “No sir, I ain’t been drinking /
I ain’t even had one beer / … And I know I’m all over the road / I can’t help but go /….”

Photos: People’s Park July 15, 2021

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