Interesting things happen when you start paying attention to your surroundings. For instance, I learned two days prior to Do The Charleston that one of our graduate students was a co-organizer. Sean Hughes is between his 1st and 2nd year of a Masters of Public Administration degree at the College of Charleston and a student in the Urban and Regional Planning Graduate Certificate Program at the College. He also works in the Admissions and Adult Student Services office at the College as a Transfer Credit Evaluator. Sean graciously agreed to share his experience and the day where vendors, restaurants and citizens took to the streets – King Street to be exact.
Sunburned, hot, and tired on my fifth trip out of more than twenty between Calhoun and Queen Streets this past Sunday, and I could not stop smiling. It was about that time that the overwhelming success of the event became evident to others besides the organizers of Do the Charleston, a car free day on King Street. Along with the chairman of the event, Jamie Price, and the co-chairs Kristin Walker and Celeste Fortier, committee members Tom Bradford, Brad Rickenbaker and I organized and put on the car free event on one of the busiest streets in downtown Charleston to a never ending stream of delighted residents and visitors.
Jamie Price had been pushing for about six months for the permit from the City of Charleston to close the street to cars during a Sunday afternoon. Finally convinced of the merit of the idea, the City granted the permit and things were quickly set in motion. Everyone had their role in bringing the event to fruition; my role was to organize and oversee the street dining portion of the day. It involved a lot of face time in the restaurants getting to know the managers and people in charge and answering questions about an event that had never actually happened before. While King Street used to be closed for several blocks during Christmas, no one could remember a time when more than those couple blocks had been closed to traffic. The process was not without minor issues and setbacks along the way, however the group persevered and the day came.
As the police gradually closed the street people walking along King Street immediately went to their cell phones. “What is going on today on King Street?” was the most often heard question over the 15 minutes it took to close the streets. At first, a lone runner took notice of the opportunity and brazenly ran down the very center of the street. Soon after the first, other early morning runners and walkers joined in as restaurants set up their outdoor dining spaces and vendors assembled tents in the street. All of the sudden I heard several people saying “This is nice, let’s walk in the street while we can!” As the clock ticked past noon the event had officially started although many had started visiting and talking with neighbors, friends, vendors, and store employees as soon as they opened. More and more people filled the streets until King Street appeared as it once did: a gathering and community space for the City, our community, and friends, not cars.
While I’m not against cars at all, their absence on Sunday May 16th provided a wonderful community space. There are certain features of cities that make them more unique, more personable, more worthy of remembering. The car free day on King Street was one of those features, added to a very long list that Charleston is rightfully proud to share with the rest of the world. The event was a huge success and garnered much support from residents, visitors, and city officials alike. Several Charleston City Council members were walking around King Street, including Council member Mike Seekings, who was out enjoying the afternoon. Mayor Riley also stopped by and had great things to say about our event. It sounds like we can expect another one of these fun car free days in the future, time and street to be determined.
Pictures and more about the event can be found at www.dothecharleston.com. All photos courtesy of Kristin Badger.
2 thoughts on “Do The Charleston”
I dream to go there to learn
This car-free day sounds magical! Less cars polluting and more people walking is a great thing. Plus it’s an entirely different experience walking thru a street than driving; you notice all these little things.