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Durham Central Park: Revitalizing Downtown Durham

By Courtney Clark

Durham Central Park, named after the city itself, fills its five acres with events and activities intended to serve residents and rebuild the downtown area. With food trucks, live music, parades, and more, the Park continues to grow with the Durham community.

The vision for Durham Central Park began in 1994 with Curt Eshelman and Allen Wilcox. The two longed to see downtown Durham revitalized, so they enlisted the help of Bill Kalkhof (Downtown Durham, Inc.) and the community to create a space for an urban park that would host public art, picnics, concerts, and more.

Although the Park is still growing, it has already made an impact on the area that has witnessed an influx of new businesses, farmers' markets, weddings, and dance concerts. Erin Kauffman, Executive Director of Durham Central Park, Inc., explains the organization's mission well ? to "create and sustain a park that engages the Durham community by focusing our efforts on natural beauty, public art, community events and recreation."

The Park's events vary, but some are on a weekly basis. For example, the Durham Farmers' Market takes place every Saturday from 10:00 in the morning to noon. Located at the Pavilion, which was built in 2006, residents can enjoy the best of the local community here. Along with featuring fresh vegetables, meats, cheese, and eggs, the Market also offers flowers, potted plants, medicinal herbs, handmade crafts, and more.

Other events take place annually. The Dream Big Book Drive occurs each year on Martin Luther King Day and encourages the community to donate books. According to the website, the event is in accordance with Book Harvest and is "inspired by Dr. King's vision of a world in which every child has the chance to realize his or her full potential" and celebrates "diversity, literacy, and book ownership for all children." Durham residents are welcome to volunteer or just enjoy the day with local mascots, a Scrap Exchange, live music, food trucks, a photo book, and other fun activities.

Durham Central Park hosts a plethora of other events, as well, such as five Food Truck Rodeos, which features more than 50 food trucks, beer and cider, artists, music ? all of which are local. A Children's Independence Day parade is held every Fourth of July, and December sees World Aids Day events. Art is also a common occurrence with occasions like the recent iron pour, "The Iron Furnace." Kauffman explains, "Artists from Liberty Arts brought a giant furnace to the park and melted down iron and created art from the liquid metal!"

Although Durham Central Park is still growing, the many events that take place have strongly supported the local community. Focusing on revitalization and education, the Park and its organization of the same name bring the community together year-round.

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