If Downtown Bangor Coordinator Betsy Lundy gets her way, there will be a giant water slide down Park Street this summer, along with a 60-foot-wide tethered helium balloon hovering above Pickering Square, offering rides.
Lundy and members of the Downtown Bangor Partnership on Tuesday will present to Bangor’s Business and Economic Development Committee a new slate of proposed events to replace the organization’s previous summer event, the Cool Sounds Concert Series — events that Lundy said represent a bold step forward for the downtown community.
“We need to do something big. We need events that are significant attractions that are different from what has been done in the past,” said Lundy, who previously owned the downtown retailer Maine Cloth Diaper Co. “We have a wonderful following in downtown Bangor, but we need it to grow, and to get new people to come here.”
Those two “big” events are the Urban Slide, a 1,000-foot, pop-up water slide that Lundy said would be set up on Park Street, alongside Bangor City Hall, during the last weekend in July, and an AeroBalloon, a 60-foot wide helium-filled balloon that offers rides for up to 16 people in an attached gondola, to be set up in Pickering Square from August through October.
A third event would be a reimagined version of the Sidewalk Arts Festival, a weekend-long, juried outdoor arts festival that Bangor NBC affiliate WLBZ ran for 20 years before it ended in 2009. The revamped festival would take place in late June or early July on Exchange and Harlow streets.
Those three events would replace the Cool Sounds Concert Series that began in 2003. The Downtown Bangor Partnership board voted last year to discontinue the summer series due to declining attendance and an abundance of other free outdoor musical offerings.
The Urban Slide has visited more than 100 cities across the country. It is essentially a 1,000-foot-long, two-lane Slip ‘N Slide made of vinyl and set on a hill in a downtown area, using recycled water. Riders must bring their own inner tubes or purchase one on site, and the cost to ride is generally around $10, according to the Urban Slide website. Lundy said that Park Street is the ideal location in downtown Bangor due to its incline.
“I think we tend to focus our events around that Main Street corridor, but the Park, Exchange, Harlow side of town has really blossomed in recent years, and they have also been hit the hardest by construction,” Lundy said. “Plus, how much fun would it be to have a giant water slide in downtown Bangor on what statistically is the hottest weekend of the summer?”
AeroBalloon is a Boston-based company that offers tethered helium balloon rides in cities all over the world.
The attached gondola can hold up to 16 people, and it rises between 300 and 500 feet during a trip, well above any building in the Bangor region (including, at times, the Penobscot Narrows Observatory), according to Lundy.
“We want to [have the AeroBalloon] in August and September and into October, so we can also attract leaf peepers,” Lundy said. “And we want to set it up in Pickering Square, because, let’s face it, the square gets a lot of bad press, and we spend a lot of time worrying about what we don’t want there. I think we need to rewrite that story and think about what we do want. It should be Bangor’s front door. When you come out of the garage you should be walking right into town.”
The Sidewalk Arts Festival would run in a similar manner to the original festival in the 1990s and 2000s, with artists and artisans set up on the sidewalk and in parking spaces along the street.
Lundy said that riding the slide and the balloon would require tickets, but she envisions a punch-card reward system that would allow people to earn free passes to both attractions by spending money at downtown businesses.
“We want these to complement what is already here, and to help put customers into the stores and the restaurants of stakeholders in downtown,” Lundy said.
Lundy has already approached the city’s engineering and parks and recreation departments to discuss the feasibility of both the slide and the balloon. Both would require a number of special permits and city council approval. The Business and Economic Development Committee will only make a recommendation to the council, which will then have the final say.
The Downtown Bangor Partnership is a nonprofit organization that’s funded by a special assessment on property owners located in the city’s Downtown District and by business sponsorships. Lundy works for the partnership on the city’s behalf, as well as for the Department of Community and Economic Development.
The Urban Slide and AeroBalloon are much larger endeavors than previous Downtown Bangor Partnership events, and as such command a heftier price tag. Though specific costs are not yet available, Lundy said the price of a two-month AeroBalloon rental would near $100,000, and the Urban Slide would cost around $40,000 for a weekend, including insurance.
“We understand that this is a lot of money, and that this is all contingent upon sponsorships from businesses and organizations,” Lundy said. “We might not get all the way there this year. But you never know unless you try. Let’s do something bold and see if it sticks.”