(Pedestrians walking and riding bikes in downtown Windsor during Open Streets Windsor on September 22, 2019. Photo above by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.)
For four hours on Sunday (Sept. 22) some eight kilometres of the main streets of upper Windsor, from Old Sandwich Town, through the downtown, to Ford City were only passable “à pied.” Or on bikes, skateboards, other mobility devices and kid-sized scooters, like the one operated by Gael Proulx. The youngster, dressed as a superhero, was able to speed down Riverside Drive without a care in the world, of course, under the close scrutiny of his parental guardians. This is the first time Riverside Drive has been part of the route, giving strollers the benefit of the riverfront view.
What is now an annual event, Open Streets turned a few of the city’s commercial and arterial roads into an urban wanderer’s paradise for casually walking or riding in carefree and car free comfort. What attracted regular attendee Barbara Slim was the rare chance to gain a perspective of the city from its streets without worrying about cars.
Also walking along Riverside Drive was local Greater Essex County District School Board Trustee Alan Halberstadt. Actually, he didn’t plan to walk but the brakes on wife Susan’s bicycle malfunctioned.
While Slim and the Halberstadts were enjoying a street level view, Mahayarruhh-Star Livingstone was setting his sights a bit higher. Through the lens of his Meade 8″ LX10 Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope, the member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada -Windsor Centre, was taking a look at the sun.
For those without such high-powered devices, there were a number of mini-events along the route including a group of Filipinos in full traditional Philippines’ attire at the Multicultural Council of Windsor-Essex’s Carousel of Nations booth. They were demonstrating some of their cultural skills.
Many of the restaurants along the route also had roadside stands. Tim Horton’s University branch was promoting its Smile Cookies, while Sir Cedric’s Fish was offering a special shrimp package.
Just beyond, many pets walking the route were stopping to see Shepherd/Labrador fur baby Emma sitting in front of the Emma’s Dog Treats’ booth. Behind her Kimmy Sandrin and her mother Nadine, partners in the home-based business, were showing off the dog treats and custom dog bandannas they make and sell at events and the downtown Windsor Farmer’s Market. On Open Streets, the most popular item, Sandrin told Eyes on Windsor, are dog delicious Pizza Pups.
Further down University Ave, the crowds were gathering at Ouellette, a major hub for the event. Many were actually looking up, but not as far as Livingstone. Their attention was riveted to the high-flying aerial fabric climbers flying through the air with grace and ease. Both instructors Rasha Gill and Deanna Papineau of downtown Windsor’s Circus School performed separate acrobatic shows over the heads of the passers-by.
A little further down University Avenue East, Windsor Light Music Theatre was providing a sneak peek at its next musical. In November it will stage Roald Dahl’s Matilda about a young girl with magical powers.
Cast members Megan Whalen, who will play Miss Honey, and Josephine Cormier, one of the two girls in the role of Matilda, were performing songs from the play to the absolute delight of the Open Streets wanderers.
Next door children were having a great time doing the Gorilla Gulp. Women’s Enterprise Skills Training of Windsor was giving them an opportunity to demonstrate their skill in the throwing of bananas into a gorilla’s mouth. Last year, WEST, as it is known, reached its 30th Anniversary of helping local women find jobs or training that will lead to jobs.
One of the highlights of Open Streets on Sunday was art. A number of painters, photographers and others had set up their own displays including Rashmi Dadwal with a number of new large works. And with the federal election looming, a few political aspirants also set up their tents, including Windsor West’s Green Party candidate Sean Hunt and Liberal candidate Sandra Pupatello.
Open Streets has grown into a continent-wide phenomenon at over 100 cities in North America where streets become hosts to a wide range of activities in the pursuit of encouraging active transportation, like walking and bike riding, and community building initiatives.
Volunteers and Windsor Police and Auxiliary Police were stationed along the route to ensure no vehicles disrupted the pleasure of this unique form of urban street walking.
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.