October 21, 2018

‘Tis the season to stroll Church St.

Observer courtesy photo
The Church Street Marketplace is a magical thoroughfare to walk at night when it is alight with holiday decorations.

Downtown Burlington, centered around the Church Street Marketplace, is Vermont’s award-winning open air mall. During the holiday season it is a hub of excitement, shopping and site-seeing. You’ll find historic architecture, festive decorations, street entertainers, music and over 100 places to shop and dine.

Through Christmas Eve, shoppers who make a purchase of $50 or more at one of over 50 participating #ShopBurlington locations will be entered to win $500 worth of gift cards through the Shop Burlington program.And, if you download the Parkmobile App, you will save $3 off on street parking every Saturday until Christmas.

“A Christmas Carol” will be on stage at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts at 153 Main Street on Friday, Dec. 8. The Nebraska Theatre Caravan returns with Charles Jones’ adaptation of Dickens’ “ghostly little tale.”

Weaving traditional Christmas carols into the narrative, this classic, which has played the Flynn every year for 35 years, features a 24-member ensemble and Broadway-style scenery to spirit away a Main Stage audience.

There will be rides in holiday bedecked carriages pulled by miniature horses from the Green Mountain Miniature horses, part of the Green Mountain Horse Club, on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Pops will be at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts with festive music from around the world, a carol singalong and a special appearance by the Bronze Ambassadors, an award-winning student bell choir from Newport on Saturday, Dec. 9. Syrian composer Suad Bushnaq will perform ‘Tomorrow,’ bringing a message of hope and peace. Russia is well represented with Glazunov’s “Winter” and selections from the “Nutcracker,” then back to America for Chadwick’s “Jubilee & Noel,” and – of course – “Sleigh Ride.” The VSO will be led by Guest Conductor Anne Decker.

Observer courtesy photo
The holiday tree, aglow with lights, is the centerpiece of the holiday scene on Church Street.

The idea for the Church Street Marketplace first germinated in the 1960s. In 1962 architecture student Bill Truex experienced the transformation of Stroget, Copenhagen’s main shopping –from “traffic-snarled nightmare” to successful pedestrian mall. Seven years later, as chair of the Burlington Planning Commissioner, Truex enlisted the support of Pat Robins, chair of the Street Commission, to promote the idea of turning Church Street into an inviting pedestrian district. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy and his chief of staff, Paul Bruhn, secured a federal grant and Burlington voters passed a bond for the city’s share of construction costs.

Church Street’s two middle blocks (between College and Cherry streets) were officially closed to traffic on July 7, 1980. The Church Street Marketplace, which opened on Sept. 15, 1981, has been described as the “gem in the crown” of the Queen City of Burlington.

In 1994, the Church Street’s top block (between Cherry and Pearl Streets) was closed to vehicular traffic and resurfaced with brick. In 2005, City Hall Block (between Main and College streets) was the final block to be closed to vehicles and resurfaced with brick.

The Church Street Marketplace District is a business improvement district created in 1981, that includes the public street and all properties that abut Church Street between Pearl and Main streets. It is a National Register Historic District and has been named one of the Great Public Spaces in America for its historic buildings, thriving retail trade, carefully maintained streets and walkways and strong community support. More than 70 percent of Church Street businesses are locally owned

Each year, some 3 million people visit to shop, eat, meet and greet, mark milestones or just pass the time of day.

— Observer staff report

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