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2 street parties hit Missoula neighborhoods on Sunday

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Higgins Avenue will be a busy place come Sunday.

The corridor to downtown Missoula will play host to two free events this weekend, as Sunday Streets Missoula invades a different neighborhood for its final event of the season and businesses on the Hip Strip come together to present the sixth annual Hip Strip Block Party.

For the record, Sunday Streets Missoula is moving mostly off Higgins Avenue for its final event of the season.

The free party closes Higgins to vehicle traffic several Sundays each summer to promote biking, walking and community connections in the downtown area. On Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., the event will instead spill over into the Northside and Westside neighborhoods.

Still, the point is to show people just how close downtown Missoula is to their neighborhoods, said Alexandria Stokman, program supervisor for Missoula in Motion, which hosts Sunday Streets Missoula.

“It has always been our hope for Sunday Streets to not only be a part of downtown but a part of the neighborhoods, showing a connection between neighborhoods and downtown and show how people can access things via biking and walking,” Stokman said.

A small portion of North Higgins Avenue will be closed near the red Xs. From there, road closures will cover 1.3 miles, running from White Pine Park at the corner of Scott Street and Turner going east on Sherwood, then south on Waverly, east on Toole/Railroad and will end at the Xs, passing by Lowell School and Little McCormick Park.

The Northside/Westside Neighborhood Council is co-hosting the event. The neighborhood showed great interest in hosting the event, Stokman said, and is helping make sure it will be well attended.

“What the neighborhood has done for Sunday Streets is do outreach and talk with residents, and with neighborhood activity centers, as well as help us with publicity for the event,” Stokman said. “Word of mouth is the best form of publicity we can get.”

Neighborhood council leadership team representative Kendall Lewis said the event is a perfect time to showcase “the coolest” neighborhood in the city.

“We thought it would be a great community builder. The Northside-Westside is pretty unique,” Lewis said. “I think it’s a really great opportunity for the Northside/Westside area to do some neighborhood bonding, and host an event for the city to come and participate in.”

Like other Sunday Streets events, the day will include a wide variety of activities. Activity centers will be set up at four sites: White Pine Park, Westside Park, Little McCormick Park and the red Xs. They’ll include activities such as bike tune-ups by REI, square-dancing at the Xs and numerous food vendors.

The popular bouncy house will be back as well and will be staged at Little McCormick Park, Stokman said.

As usual, many of the activities will encourage movement. Missoula Parks and Recreation will be at Westside Park with a climbing wall, sports equipment, obstacle course, and the blue bikes to help get from one activity center to another.

“It’s family friendly and there’s something for everyone,” Stokman said.

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Later on Sunday afternoon, businesses from around the Hip Strip on South Higgins will roll out a barrage of activities as it invites the community to enjoy the sixth annual Hip Strip Block Party.

The party will be held from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Third Street and Higgins Avenue.

Businesses around the Hip Strip pitch in each year to put on the party, which will include food from area businesses like Silk Road and beer from Kettlehouse Brewing. There will be a dunk tank, ice cream-eating contests and bouncy houses for the kids throughout the day.

The stage set up at the east end of Third Street will be shared by local bands like Spirit Hole, Skin Flowers, Petunia, and the Chalfonts throughout the day.

“It just raises awareness about the kinds of business in this neighborhood. There are so many kinds of business. I think it’s fun for people to venture across the bridge,” said Leah Morrow, lead organizer of the party and co-owner of Selvedge Studio on the Hip Strip. “We have a fun, unique neighborhood and identity, it helps with that as well, it helps share our identity.”

The event is also a fundraiser for the Missoula Food Bank, located on Third Street in the strip. People are encouraged to bring food or monetary donations, Morrow said.

It will feature a kids’ fashion show at 3 p.m. It’s a new part of the party this year and another way to encourage families to attend, Morrow said.

The party culminates at 9 p.m. with “the best darn fashion show in town,” where models will be dressed up in attire provided by various Hip Strip businesses.

Morrow and members of the Selvedge Studio crew were busy all week making items to send down the runway.

“We’re sort of revamping some vintage stuff, which has been fun for us. We’re also custom-making stuff from patterns we love,” Morrow said.

Bernice’s Bakery is also cooking up items to show. As is Bitterroot Flower Shop, where the staff is still deciding exactly what it will make for the models.

“Our flower designers just love it, every day they do peoples arrangements with specific instructions, this time I just say make some really creative things. I think it builds morale,” shop owner Lindsay Irwin said.

For previous fashion shows, Bitterroot flower designers have made aprons out of flowers, “the biggest” bridal bouquet anyone had ever seen, and a belt of flowers, Irwin said.

Both Morrow and Irwin named the fashion show as their favorite part of the party.

“It’s just unusual. There are a lot of really cool events in this town, but this is an unusual one,” Morrow said. “It’s one of a kind for sure.”

Reporter Jenna Cederberg can be reached at 523-5241 or at jenna.cederberg@missoulian.com.

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