First Time Bartender at the Island City Art Walk

Last night, Wilton Manors held a party.

It wasn’t strictly a “Wilton Manors Party” it was more like a bunch of parties strung together all at once, all along the Drive.  This is the basis for the Island City Art Walk.  It’s not an official event held under one official banner. 

Each individual store that decides to participate has artists with their works on display at their store to show off the art.  Some shops are always hosting artists, others drop in and out as time allows. 

It’s a great opportunity to meet your neighbors and wander through some shops that normally you would not be able to go to.

Ok so that’s basically the gist of how I see things as a resident and sometimes participant.

What happened with me was a bit different, at least as far as my own experience shows.  I’m not a bartender, I have never played one on TV.  I have tried to get a friend up to Wilton Manors so he could get to see it and those plans fell apart early last week so we went to the Wilton Manors Main Street offices to “help out”.

Kevin delivered some cheese, chips and salsa from GFS Marketplace, another member delivered some wine and ice, and we set things out for the coming throng.  We were ready.

As time went on, Kevin, Krishan and I were playing host to a steady stream of people.  I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Vice Mayor Tom Green and a number of others as I was standing behind the bar and as time went on, we got our first lull in the traffic.   Krishan excused himself as things were quite under control for a bit of time out on the town. 

As parties go, they always have a lifespan.  Start out slow, build to a peak, then fade out slowly until the last one is kicked off the couch or told that since they crashed there all night it is their responsibility to make breakfast for everyone.

Make mine a sausage and cheese omelette, please.

Just as the party begun to build, a full 15 minutes into it, Kevin’s phone rang.  He ran out to take a “quick call” and I was pouring wine and serving cheese.  I’m looking back at it and have to say it was “different in a good way”.  I was able to basically host a party on my own introducing people to the artist, and telling them where we are on the Two Lane Initiative for Wilton Drive as far as I knew. 

That quick call was 45 minutes long, so I was on my own for a while.  On the other hand, it was a chance to visit with some friends in the neighborhood that I only partly knew and get caught up.  Funny how time will stretch and compress when you’re having fun. 

The salsa was a hit, GFS had some good stuff, and the leftovers will go into the salsa chicken that is today’s dinner.  I think we’re going to have that chicken on top of chips with a layer of cheese chunks.   Funny how versatile “snack food” can be.  The recipe is simple – add to a crockpot 8 frozen chicken breasts and enough salsa to coat and then press cook.  Shred when done with two forks.   We used chicken from GFS that we picked up last weekend at the Fort Lauderdale store so this meal is all from them.

Considering what I experienced, I would say that the people who came in are expecting some changes in the city.  There was heavy interest in what the Two Lane Initiative was all about and what it’s status was.  Basically, we have applied for a grant, and we are waiting to see if the grant application is going to be approved.   In the meantime, the City has a committee made of community members who meet to formulate plans to proceed.  Many questions also were being asked about the businesses that were closing on the drive in this difficult economic downturn.

We are basically waiting to see where we’re going, and the people who I spoke with were very happy to hear that it hasn’t died.

Once Kevin’s 45 minute call was over, Krishan immediately appeared and I was off duty.  I got to enjoy the party by greeting guests from a chair while helping them find the artist and answering still more questions about what went on with the Art Walk and with the Two Lane Initiative and important things like where is the nearest ATM.

Both artists who exhibited their works at Wilton Manors Main Street were well received and were both saying that they’d like to come back.  I would say that the Exhibits as well as the Art Walk was a success.

The experience was a fun one, I did enjoy playing bartender but I’ll have to remember next time – softer shoes!

Commission Meeting November 9, 2010 Highlights

Last night’s commission meeting was a short one.  After the swearing in of the elected officials and some light refreshments preceding the event, there was the selection of Tom Green as the Vice Mayor for the City. 

Congratulations, Tom and best of luck.

The meeting was a short agenda but there were some highlights.

During the comments from the Commissioners there was a call from Commissioner Scott Newton for the City to “Invest in the closure of the drive for next year’s” halloween party.  This is an excellent idea, since it will enhance the event and increase safety.  It fell through last year because of the collapse of the original event’s sponsors and by the time that Wilton Manors Main Street was able to pick up the event, it was too late to close the Drive.  The timing was just not right.  With Commissioner Newton’s backing, an early closure of the Drive may be assured regardless of which group handles the event.  Since Wilton Drive is in fact a four lane State Highway, Florida DOT is required to be notified and there are costs with closure.  With the Drive closed for an event everyone wins.  According to Commissioner Newton, during the four days of  Wicked Weekend there were only two related police calls with no arrests.  Events here tend to be a very safe affair.

Vice Mayor Tom Green voiced an interest in the City holding a St Patricks day festivity for next year.  Hopefully they will be able to pull something significant together for this as it is already getting late for any plans on a large scale event to fall in place.  Most likely it will be a small community based event instead of a large festival.  Having watched multiple festivals being planned and realizing that a large one with closing of the drive, parades, booths and other public space events would be difficult, I wish them well and would offer my assistance in any way reasonable.  I don’t expect that they have much time before they run against logistics problems.

Vice Mayor Tom Green also reiterated his desire for traffic cameras on Wilton Drive.   I see some problems with this.  Washington DC had tried these cameras and began removing them.  The reason is that people would spot the signs at the intersection, jam their brakes on and cause more accidents than would have happened without the cameras.  It would be more effective to enforce existing laws such as speeding and aggressive driving and get the word out that Wilton Manors is not a place to drive through, but a place to drive to.  If you stand on Wilton Drive and watch the intersections for any length of time, you realize that speeding is the real problem and not people running lights or trying to get through on a “Stale Yellow Light”.

The real solution to speeding on Wilton Drive is to narrow the drive down to two lanes and proceed with the two lane initiative as discussed by many people and championed by Wilton Manors Main Street.  It is very difficult to speed when you have only one lane, there is parking everywhere, and the speed limit is 25MPH.  It is easy and the norm now with four lanes of traffic plus a turn lane at all intersections.

With the proposed Beer Garden going in on NE 6th Ave just above Wilton Drive planning on using valet parking, the idea of adding parking on the Drive with striping in the first phase is needed.  The idea that there is anywhere to park a vehicle for a new bar is questionable, and it should be a requirement that they provide adequate parking sufficient for peak periods.  A beer garden would be a fun change from the usual noisy bar scene, but if you add to the nightmare of parking in the city, you’re going to have problems keeping the business going.  I share Vice Mayor Green’s concern that the plan for valet parking for the Beer Garden parking at the Dairy Queen, 1/2 mile away, is prohibitive from the practicality standpoint.