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Almost Free Fridays has something for everyone at Main Gate Square


Photo
JAKE LACEY/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thon Martin with the band Apocolypso played on University Boulevard on Friday next to a community mural.
By Susan Bonicillo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 20, 2005
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America has and does a lot of things that Europe doesn't, and we like it that way.

We carve dead presidents on our mountains.

We like to know more about the lives of our celebrities than our own domestic and foreign policy.

We prefer to drink soda out of buckets than glasses.

We like weapons, and we like them big and noisy.

Yes, we Americans do a lot of things differently than the Old World. However, one thing that Europe does trump us in is the use and proliferation of town squares.

Ah, yes, the quaint concept of having a place to meet isn't a feature that comes up in our highly decentralized American cities. Blame planning, but especially in Tucson, communal places are few and far between.

One of these communal places is Main Gate Square, right in the UA's backyard. The Marshall Foundation, a nonprofit philanthropic organization that owns most of property on East University Boulevard from North Euclid Avenue to North Tyndall Avenue, is trying to emulate this European idea with their weekly event called "Almost Free Fridays," which began Sept. 9.

The Marshall Foundation hopes to bring more business to this area as well as become a community builder.

"It's a very urban location," said Jane McCollum, general manager of the Marshall Foundation. "There aren't a lot of urban locations in Tucson. People watch and come out with their families. You can come out at a pretty time of the day and it's simple, fun and it's free."

Yes, the optimum word here is "free." The word is like magic to the ears of college students. Live music performances are free and businesses all along University Boulevard feature discounts, like a $6 Budweiser and gyro at the The Fat Greek, 970 E. University Blvd. A full list of discounts can be found at www.maingatesquare.com.

As well as providing free, live entertainment, Geronimo Plaza features an open studio where you can help create Ben's Bells, a Tucson tradition honoring the memory of Ben Mare-Packard in an attempt to encourage random acts of kindness.

You can also try a hand at being artistic by decorating the public participation mural that the Marshall Foundation has set up on the second floor of the building on the southeast corner of Park Avenue and University Boulevard.

This week the live entertainment will be dancers Bianca Ortiz and Erik, who will perform from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the north side of University Boulevard between La Salsa and Pei Wei.

In between sets, they will also be offering dance lessons on Argentine tango, salsa or swing at about 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. In a coordinated effort with Parking and Transportation Services, parking is free with validation at Tyndall Avenue Parking Garage.

"We want this to be a signature event," McCollum said.

Almost Free Fridays will be held every Friday for the foreseeable future, according to McCollum.



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