Chalkfest: It’s all about community

By Mary Therese Biebel - [email protected]
Athena, 4, Clarity, 2, and Mya 11months Cohen of Wilkes-Barre make chalk drawings on the squares at the Riverfront Parks in Wilkes-Barre during the 2017 ChalkFest. Organizers are hoping for an even bigger crowd this year. -
Franklin Shinal 4, and Mason Clews 7, chat whilemaking chalk drawings at the Riverfront Parks during last year’s event. -
Four-year-old Natalie Welles, of Plymouth, works on her drawing during a similar chalk event in Plymouth. Adults as well as children are encouraged to draw this year. -

WILKES-BARRE — Rembrandts and raw beginners, you’re all welcome.

Preschoolers, grandparents and everyone in between, c’mon down.

Whoever you are, John Maday from the Riverfront Parks Committee hopes you’ll accept his invitation to visit the Susquehanna riverfront near the Market Street and North Street bridges on Saturday, pick up some free chalk and express yourself.

If enough people pitch in during what Maday anticipates as Wilkes-Barre’s ninth and perhaps biggest-ever Chalkfest, the group has a chance to set a new Guinness World Record for the longest contiguous chalk drawing.

But that’s not the most important thing, Maday said.

“We are focusing on this as a true community event,” he said. “We‘ll assign everyone to a block and just imagine, two families who have never met before, while they are drawing they are meeting and exchanging information about each other. That random meeting just brings people together. The record part is secondary.”

Maday hopes at least 2,000 people will come and draw, getting to know their fellow chalk artists as they create a collection of drawings that will stretch back and forth several times along the River Common from the area near King’s College to the Wilkes University vicinity.

The plan is to have a total five miles of drawings, which would be more than enough to break a record of 3.55 miles the city of Greeley, Colo., set a few years ago.

In the spirit of sportsmanship, Maday said, participants should not just draw a line through a block. They should try to be artistic. Of course, children are welcome to scribble because that’s what kids do.

“We’ve got 3,000 boxes of chalk ready, with 12 pieces each,” Maday said. “If we could get 2,000 people, that would be fantastic.”

Explaining the game plan, he said, “We broke the River Common into four quadrants, with two for the general public, one reserved for the King’s community and one for the Wilkes community. They’re supporters of ours and it’s basically their front yard.”

People who come to draw need not limit themselves to one block a piece.

“We have a lot of blocks to fill,” Maday said. “Someone could stake out an area and say ‘I’ll do this one and that one’ and then when they’re finished, ‘Do you have more for me, sir?’ That kind of thing.”

“There’s no rush,” he added. “People can relax and take their time with this. Create anything you want. The overarching theme is to become better engaged with the environment.”

While Chalkfest is taking place, from 8 a.m. to at least 4 p.m., Maday said, related “Hydromania” activities will offer educational exhibits about the river and water quality. The day will also include a voter registration drive set up by the Luzerne County Election Bureau, food trucks and music by Don Shappelle and the Pickups. A live mammal show will be held at 11:30 a.m.

In an effort to help the less fortunate, Chalkfest participants are asked to bring a non-perishable food item, preferably a canned good, to donate to the Weinberg Food Bank.

Athena, 4, Clarity, 2, and Mya 11months Cohen of Wilkes-Barre make chalk drawings on the squares at the Riverfront Parks in Wilkes-Barre during the 2017 ChalkFest. Organizers are hoping for an even bigger crowd this year.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_TTL101517Chalk1.jpgAthena, 4, Clarity, 2, and Mya 11months Cohen of Wilkes-Barre make chalk drawings on the squares at the Riverfront Parks in Wilkes-Barre during the 2017 ChalkFest. Organizers are hoping for an even bigger crowd this year.

Franklin Shinal 4, and Mason Clews 7, chat whilemaking chalk drawings at the Riverfront Parks during last year’s event.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_TTL101517Chalk2.jpgFranklin Shinal 4, and Mason Clews 7, chat whilemaking chalk drawings at the Riverfront Parks during last year’s event.

Four-year-old Natalie Welles, of Plymouth, works on her drawing during a similar chalk event in Plymouth. Adults as well as children are encouraged to draw this year.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_chalk3.jpgFour-year-old Natalie Welles, of Plymouth, works on her drawing during a similar chalk event in Plymouth. Adults as well as children are encouraged to draw this year.
(And maybe we’ll set a world record)

By Mary Therese Biebel

[email protected]

IF YOU GO

What: Chalkfest and Hydromania

When: Starting 8 a.m. Sept. 29; perhaps wrapping up around 4 p.m.

Where: Riverfront Parks in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Enter by the Millennium Circle, between Union and Market streets along North River Street or by the Amphitheater entrance, near Northampton Street’s intersection with South River Street.

Admission: Free, but donations of canned goods for the Weinberg Food Bank greatly appreciated

Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT

Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT