What’s a Pop-Up Park and Why Do We Celebrate Them?

In October 2013, one of the first events that Downtown Huntsville, Inc. hosted was the inaugural Pop Up Park Experience.  Using the tag-line “Move Out the Cars, Bring in the Humans”, DHI modeled this new Downtown event on the National Park(ing) Day which began in 2005 in San Francisco with one metered parking space converted into a temporary park (if you want to learn more about National Park(ing) Day, just click here.)

For the Downtown Huntsville version, we selected several parking spaces around the Square and invited local companies to build temporary parks in those spaces.  The parks were designed to fit into a single space each, were open 24 hours a day during the event, and have always been free to experience.

Now, some might ask why do this at all?  The simple reason is because it provides a fun, free, and eclectic way to enjoy our city center during 10 beautiful October days.  As you can see from the pictures in this blog, the Pop-Up Parks have offered a wide variety of interactive elements (human foosball, super-sized pinball and more!) as well as great selfie locations at the parks.

Best of all, the actual parking disruption is very small when you consider that, on any given day, numerous on-street and deck parking spaces remain available within less than a block or two.  We think this is a small price to pay for unique and quirky fun that is free to all to enjoy.  And, based on the big crowds each year, visitors to the Pop-Up Parks seem to agree.

This year, we feature another great slate of Pop Up Parks starting with our returning sponsor Maynor and Mitchell Eye Center and their collaboration with Randolph School to build a super-sized park using the theme of See the Possibilities.

2017 Maynor and Mitchell/Randolph School Park

2017 Maynor and Mitchell/Randolph School Park

We also feature two park teams that are returning for the 6th straight year!  These Founding Park teams are 4Site and GMC Network.  Each year, they’ve brought super interactive and interesting parks to Downtown Huntsville.  We can’t wait to see what they have in store this year.

We also have amazing parks being “Popped Up” by the following teams: 

Kel Mitchell NextHome, Light On Yoga Fitness, Rockaxe City Throwing Club, Huntsville Ballet Company, UAH Hockey, Alabama A&M, Domino’s Valley Pizza, Inc, Straight to Ale, and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

Pop Up Park Strategies

Several blogs ago, we wrote about DHI’s core event strategies.  The Pop-Up Parks really accomplish these strategies in major way.  They are “free to attend”, they are “all ages friendly” and they are “eclectic yet approachable”.  In other words, they represent one of Downtown’s signature events each year.

So, how is the best way to enjoy the parks?  Here are a few ideas for you, your friends, family, and colleagues:

1.        Meet for a “picnic” at one of the parks:  You are welcome to grab breakfast, lunch or dinner from one of our great Downtown restaurants and take it to one of the parks to enjoy.  Most of the parks offer some type of setting and, even if they don’t, you’ll find benches and Adirondack chairs all around the Square.

2.       Listen to Buskerfest, presented by RCP Company and the City Centre at Big Spring:  The first ever Fall Buskerfest debuts this Thursday-Saturday and coincides with this Thursday’s opening of the Pop-Up Parks.  Many of the buskers will be playing near the parks and some may even set up inside the parks.  Come enjoy this sequel to the super popular Spring Buskerfest in conjunction with our friends at Arts Huntsville.

3.       Play free video games at the parks:  Have you heard that DHI is bringing free video games to Northside Square each Thursday in October courtesy of our friends at Martinson and Beason. Several of the parks will also be on Northside Square so you can enjoy free “park play” and “video play” on the two Thursday that the Pop-Up Parks will be open, October 11th and 18th.

4.       Experience LIT at the parks:  This year, we’re celebrating the 5th Anniversary of LIT: Light+Innovation+Technology presented by Toyota Alabama and several of the key light experiences will be all around the Square including Google Fiber on the Northside Square, UAH on the Westside Square, and LED Orange Musical Trees on Eastside Square.  The Pop-Up Parks will be perfect viewing locations for all the digital light fun at this year’s LIT!

As you can see, the Pop-Up Parks are the center of fun for some of the great events in Downtown Huntsville over the next two weeks. Mark your calendars to experience one of the largest Downtown pop up park events in the Southeast right here in the Rocket City center!