March 18, 2021
MDA COMMENCES PLANNING & PRODUCTION OF SUMMER EVENTS WITH CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM
Following a year when all community events and festivals in Caras Park were essentially cancelled, the Missoula Downtown Association will plan to host a modified (i.e. limited) version of the beloved Out to Lunch and Downtown ToNight Summer Series events, beginning the first week of June. With a focus on maintaining a safe, open and socially-distanced environment, the Out to Lunch and Downtown ToNight programs will open the season June 2-3 with a limited number of food & beverage vendors, small groups of live music, and socially-distanced seating.
While Caras Park typically hosts 80-100 events each year, the 2021 schedule will start later and feature about 50% of the normal events schedule. The first event – produced by the Missoula Downtown Association – is Brews & Bonfires on Saturday, March 27, which sold out in three days. While community members are welcome to pick up food or fill a growler in Caras Park on that day, all 10 fire pits sold out in just days for reserved parties for six people in four flights.
Due to large and intimate crowding, the MDA will not host Winter BrewFest or Garden City BrewFest this spring. However, the MDA is considering the potential of moving the Garden City BrewFest to a later date this summer.
The fate of River City Roots Festival – slated for the last weekend in August – will be determined in mid-to-late April. Missoula’s favorite holiday events – the Parade of Lights and the Festival of Trees – will be held in late November and early December with appropriate safety protocols.
“Community events and festivals are an important part of the Downtown experience and economy,” said Ashley Larkin, President of the Missoula Downtown Association Board of Directors. “Our community is really missing the connections that make living in Missoula so wonderful, and we are excited to start moving towards more normal activities as people get vaccinated and case counts decline.”
Last year the MDA organized the Downtown Pop-Ups in Caras Park on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays with just three vendors per night. The Out to Lunch Summer Series was created in 1986, and the Downtown ToNight Summer Series was created in 2001. Both programs bring life, vibrancy and connectivity to the heart of Missoula. MDA’s admission-free events are funded entirely by business sponsorships and vending fees.
While the Higgins Bridge rehabilitation will continue throughout the year, the west side improvements are slated to be completed in early June, and the construction crew will then commence work on the east side of the bridge. Access to Caras Park will remain open from Pattee, Higgins, and Ryman, as well as Ron’s River Trail. Additionally, Mountain Line services will be operating with zero fare during both Out to Lunch and Downtown ToNight.
Caras Park is available for other events – public or private – through the end of September. The park will undergo some renovations in October with the installation of the stormwater infiltration gallery, as well as redesign and flattening of the green hill adjacent to the riverfront trail. Additionally, the Clark Fork River Restoration & Access Project will develop formal access points to the river and reduce the erosion at nearly 30 unofficial access points throughout the Downtown corridor. Public input and surveys are open until March 31.
For more information on MDA’s community events and festivals or to sign up for sponsorship, visit www.missouladowntown.com or contact the Downtown Missoula Partnership office via phone (406-543-4238) or email ([email protected]).