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New York City streets come alive at Armory Square

Jasmine Cease, 16, and Gabriel Daily, 14, sit for their portrait on a park bench in a simulated street as local artist Nathan Luetgers creates their caricature portrait during the New York City-style street fair held Thursday at Armory Square.

By KEVIN CEDERSTROM

 The smell of popcorn, chocolate and roasting hotdogs filled the air as a large crowd meandered past vendors set up on sidewalks in a New York City street fair scene Thursday at Armory Square.  The event, held in part to promote the upcoming production of “West Side Story” by Northern Light Opera Company, also unofficially kicked off the summer festival season in Park Rapids.  

The New York City street fair-themed gathering also introduced many in the community to thedowntown event center renovation project of the Park Rapids Armory.

 “We had no idea it would take off like this,” organizer Pat Dove said of the attendance at the first-time event.  Dove was pleased with the turnout to the indoor street fair, which she described as a collaborative effort to bring the arts, downtown businesses and community together in an effort to promote Park Rapids.  “When people talk about a small town and say there is nothing to do, we want to show them there is a lot going on here,” Dove said. “I’m blown away. Look at this, people are chatting and happy.”  

With street music playing in the background visitors sat around tables, on park benches and anywhere they could find a spot to try an Italian sausage with peppers and other food items.  There was face painting, a clown roaming around with an invisible dog on a leash, balloons, street photo booth, eye art, fair hair, human statues, and various musicians showing off their talents.  Caricature artist Nathan Luetgers was busy sketching portraits and Bob Light even took on the character of a homeless man pushing a shopping cart.  

Brandon Haller and Kate Westphal drew plenty of attention as human statues sitting on a park bench. It’s not easy staying in character and remaining motionless for long periods of time.  “This is so much fun, it hurts,” Haller said.  The cast of “West Side Story” roamed the crowd representing street gangs the Jets and Sharks from the musical, some entertaining the crowd with some close-up card tricks, while others played checkers with guests.  Set in a New York City nightclub, the evening ended with a cabaret “Club 203” show in the lower level.  Northern Light Opera Company’s “West Side Story” opens July 31 at Armory Square.

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