Over the weekend 16th – 18th of September, Bucharest City Hall organised a series of events celebrating 557 years since the first historical attestation of the Romanian capital city. Festivities were held in three main areas of the city: the Constitution Square (which opens in front of the Palace of Parliament, the second largest administrative building in the world after the Pentagon and also the heaviest and most expensive building in the world, Cişmigiu and Herastrau parks.
Visitors were treated to a number of concerts, exhibitions, workshops, artistic performances and parades, carriage rides, a children’s theatre and a flower competition. Street animators, living statues, and a parade of vintage costumes completed the atmosphere.
The stage located in Herastrau Park offered performances by national minorities, as well as Romanian folk music. Spreading from the Arch of Triumph to the Baneasa Bridge, Herastrau Park is home to numerous attractions, including a boat rental complex, tennis courts, and the Village Museum. For an overview of the park, visitors may take a ride around the lake on the ferry or rent a boat. The surrounding area, including Mircea Eliade Boulevard and Kiseleff Street, displays stylish houses in architectural styles ranging from 19th century neoclassical to 20th century art nouveau.
As part of the anniversary event, “Kids City 2016” in Cismigiu Park offered circus performances, creative workshops and sport activities for children. Designed in 1845 by the German landscape architect Carl Meyer, Cismigiu may offer visitors a chance to stroll and enjoy a break from the bustling city life. Set amid green lush lawns and winding paths, the park has a lake with rowboat rentals, a beer garden, a playground for children, a chess area and benches for relaxing and people-watching.
The festive weekend atmosphere was complemented by eight street theatre troupes from Spain, Italy or France. Clowns, bright butterflies and dancers walked among spectators providing mini-performances full of colour in the Constitution Square and the adjacent streets. While the events were free to attend, traffic restrictions were in place around the Constitution Square area.
Early this summer, the newly appointed mayor of Bucharest, Gabriela Firea, caused a stir by announcing she was opposing weekend street events in central Bucharest due to traffic congestion linked to them. The mayor offered alternative options, such as unexploited areas and vacant land including the National Arena, Romexpo, and parks. However, persuasion efforts from the local community and the opposition party USR, through the voice of its vice-president, Clotilde Armand, resulted in the mayor changing her stance on the issue.
Bucharest aims to host a number of street events every year, some of the most important being Street Delivery, Women on Matasari, the Bucharest marathon and half marathon, and the large concerts organised in Constitutiei Square. For example, The Ultimate Thriller – The Michael Jackson Tribute – LIVE show started its world tour in Bucharest’s Constitution Square on July 7th this year. Muse, Iron Maiden and Rihanna also played in the Constitution Square over the summer.
From London to New York, Beijing to Rio de Janeiro, Paris to Tokyo, cultural street events are a tradition around the world, bringing individuals closer to their own city and country. Encouraging this type of events may have positive effects on the city life and its inhabitants by installing a sense of national pride and heritage.
While hosting large-scale events may pose challenges for the authorities, well-managed festivals may offer economic and social benefits to the local communities. Street festivals may foster community pride, teach individuals new things, and strengthen local relationships. Festivals aim to attract visitors, which may in turn stimulate the growth of tourism and other businesses in a town or region.
What innovative traffic control measures may local authorities implement during street festivals?