Move Redmond 2023 Open Streets Festival: Celebration of Movement, Transportation, & Play

By Kelli Refer

This past Saturday Move Redmond hosted the third annual Open Streets Festival and with over 40 community partners, local businesses and entertainers, it was bigger than ever. Even with all of the bubbles, children playing and people talking the streets near Downtown park felt, well surprisingly quiet. As it turns out our streets aren’t loud and stressful because of people, but rather cars. When we remove cars from the street we open up a whole lot of possibilities. People can linger, parents can let small children bike safely, we can dance to the music and connect with neighbors.

Move Redmond’s Open Street Festival is an event that focuses on celebrating the possible. What do we carve out space for when we reallocate parking places? What can happen when we give people information and inspiration to connect with a new community group, to meet a neighbor and chat over a tasty treat?

Zumba w/ Jon Kok at Move Redmond 2023 Open Streets Festival

In non-profit work it is often important to chart the outcomes and impacts of what you are doing. What is the deliverable? How did it achieve the Mission? While I can count attendees (about  1,000 people) and participating vendors (40).  What I can’t count, I’d argue, is far more important. And the fact is with an open streets event you don’t always know what will happen because of it. I can’t say for certain that twenty people were inspired to bike along Eastrail or fourteen families started taking the bus because they learned about Washington’s Free Youth Transit.

I hope those things happen, but for me this event is more about the joy that comes from the lived experience of transforming a place for just a few hours. There is power in turning an intersection from a place you go through to a place you choose to stay because your friend is playing music or your favorite Zumba instructor is inspiring you to dance. There is a lot of good that can come when people connect and share ideas. Who knows who was inspired to take action with Eastside for All or get involved with Liveable Kirkland. Who knows who found community through IACS or was inspired to garden with Muddy Boots Farm.

Streets make up the majority of public space in our cities, so instead of having every single square foot of our streets dedicated to vehicle throughput, what if we start to reimagine some of that space for community connection? Third places are defined as a place you go that isn’t home and isn’t work. Parks are great third places and I have to say that Downtown Redmond Park is an exceptionally great third place, it has bathrooms, water fountains, places to play, shady trees, areas to sit and gather, grass to play on a stage for performances. I love expanding the park to be a little bit bigger – to turn the street into another third place and seamlessly connect people to the businesses and housing across the street.

Kids Bike Rodeo at Move Redmond 2023 Open Streets Festival

My biggest hope is that the open streets festival leaves people feeling calm, joyful and proud of the many communities they are a part of, deeply rooted to a sense of place. And maybe that momentum and inspiration shifts their perspective just a little bit and who knows what actions that will inspire? The possibilities are endless.