Showing Pritchard Park some birthday love

Trina Mullen, an organizer with the volunteer group Friends of Pritchard Park, says the downtown-Asheville park could use a little TLC. "Not a lot of love has come Pritchard's way from the community in the past few years," she says. "We'd like to change that."

Proud of Pritchard: The Friends of Pritchard Park group has spearheaded several new beautification and entertainment programs in the downtown space, including "Hoop Jam" on Tuesdays afternoon from 5 to 7 p.m. Photo by Jonathan Welch

The organization, a partnership between the Downtown Asheville Residents Network and Asheville GreenWorks, is ramping up its efforts to make Pritchard clean, green, arty and hospitable. Already, Friends of Pritchard Park has raised roughly $20,000 for improvement projects, including the installation of 21 planters. It's also sponsored an ever-expanding series of free public events in the park, which was once maligned as a haven for vagrants and illicit activities.

To keep the momentum going, the group will throw Pritchard a 77th birthday party on Saturday, Aug. 1. The free event starts with an 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. celebration, with entertainment, refreshments and kids activities — all capped off with a birthday-hat parade promising "prizes for the best." In the evening, circa 8 p.m., a Movie Nights in Pritchard Park series kicks off with a screening of the classic film Tarzan the Ape Man. (Organizers urge you to bring a blanket or lawn chair and to return Saturday nights Aug. 8, 15, and 22 for more cinema beneath the stars and streetlights.)

Anyone wishing to pump some more lifeblood into the park is invited to attend the Friends of Pritchard Park fundraiser the night before (Friday, July 31) at S&W Steak and Wine's Ellington room, across the street from the park. The event, which takes place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., will include beverages and hors d'oeuvres, along with numerous silent-auction items and a live auction at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $75/single, $125/couple.

Several other Friends of Pritchard Park-sponsored activities are having a regular run in the park, from now through September:
• The Tuesday Hoop Jam — billed as "part performance, part audience participation, 100 percent fun!" — puts hula-hooping front and center every Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m.
• On Wednesdays from noon to 2 p.m., local classical musicians play live.
• Thursday evenings, from 5 to 7 p.m., the park hosts musicians and performers from several genres.
• Saturday Arts Markets, which include free performances, take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information about upcoming Pritchard Park events, visit www.ashevillegreenworks.org.

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About Jon Elliston
An Asheville-based mountain journalist: Former Mountain Xpress managing editor. Investigations and open government editor at Carolina Public Press. Senior contributing editor at WNC magazine.

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