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Hagerstown gives preliminary OK for Halloween street closure

October 22, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday unofficially approved a request from the executive director of The Maryland Theatre to close the first block of South Potomac Street during the evening hours of Halloween.

Jenni Hatcher, the theater's executive director, asked the council to close the street to help celebrate the season's last Wind Down Friday, a weekly event that the theater holds from 5 to 8 p.m. to promote the Arts and Entertainment District.

Wind Down Friday features a variety of food and live music.

Hatcher said the event would give participants a "night to enjoy" and prove that a respectable event could be held downtown. In addition, businesses on South Potomac Street would benefit from the extra foot traffic, she said.

Organizers of the event originally asked for the street to be closed from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. But after a lengthy debate, some members of the council thought the time should be reduced from 5:30 to 11 p.m.

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Councilwomen Penny M. Nigh and Alesia D. Parson-McBean said they didn't understand why the closure would be necessary because people won't be permitted to drink alcohol in the street.

"If you can't drink in the street, why close the street?" Parson-McBean said.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he supported the closure because people likely would spill on to the street during Wind Down Friday's final celebration.

Nigh and Parson-McBean countered, saying the street closure would make it easier for people to walk from bar to bar without getting struck by passing vehicles.

Nigh also said the closure could affect public safety by hindering the path of fire and police vehicles.

Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer and Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said the event would bring more exposure to the Arts and Entertainment District.

"This is a centerpiece of our community," Metzner said. "Closing the street would give a chance to have a celebration of that block."

Councilman Martin E. Brubaker said it would be more "rational" to close the street from 6 p.m. to midnight - after rush hour traffic had subsided.

The council is to vote on the issue during a meeting next week.

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