A meeting with the mayor and Commissioner Amanda Fritz tonight on NE Alberta aims to decide the future of Last Thursday. During the summer months of 2008 and 2009, the city footed the bill for expanding the monthly "alternative" arts festival. Overtime for 15 police officers, a fire engine and crew, 30-person crowd control team and 15 blocks of traffic barriers to keep the event car-free cost the city $11,000-$12,000 a month, according to Office of Neighborhood Involvement Crime Prevention Program Manager Stephanie Reynolds.
The question the city is asking tonight is: what's next? Now that an event that was once a handful a firebreathing clowns and their friends has grown to attracting tens of thousands of people to the rapidly-changing neighborhood every month, who should take the reins?
On the other hand, the excitement around Last Thursday has significantly contributed to growing Alberta's art culture, which has led to the kind of businesses the NYTimes showered with love: "colorful galleries and boutiques where visitors can browse for street art, shop for a handmade felt hat, [and] overhaul a bicycle."
Right now, the $11,000-12,000 bill for managing Last Thursday comes from the City Council's contingency funds, though neighborhood bar Bink's helps provide portapotties and local roustabout Magnus Johannesson's group "Team Last Thursday" volunteers to pick up trash the morning after. In the past year, the city has been diligent about shutting the main event down at precisely 10 pm, when uniformed workers march in a line down Alberta telling festival-goers to clear out.
Tonight's meeting is 6-8 pm at the Acadian Ballroom (1829 NE Alberta) will address how to continue Last Thursday or whether it should end altogether. On Facebook, 279 people have already RSVP'd, so get there early.