You Hung the Moon: Saint John’s First Moonlight Bazaar

My city, Saint John, New Brunswick, has been killing it this summer with all the cool, outdoor, community events. From HULA to Area 506, Festival of Sail to Third Shift and Quality Block Party, Uptown Saint John is quickly becoming the place to be.

Last Saturday night, the latest event was added, and this one might just take the cake. Or should I say, the moon? The first ever Moonlight Bazaar was held in the Grannan Lane area of Uptown, and for it this city literally hung the moon. A giant, inflatable moon, that is. The event also featured street vendors, food, performances, and a DJ.

The moon was a truly awesome attraction, and everyone wanted to get a picture of it and with it. According to organizers, it weighed 150 lbs and was 7 metres wide. It hung, suspended and glowing above a temporary lawn behind Port City Royal and drew a crowd of thousands over the course of the evening. Across the street, people strolled down the city’s newly revamped Grannan Alley, just another dirty Saint John alley not so long ago, now the epicentre of this city’s mojo.

The Moonlight Bazaar was just one in a long line of must-see events that Saint John is starting to get a reputation for. The kind of event that people kick themselves later for missing.

I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be living in Saint John at this time, as the city gathers momentum and pulses with energy. When I moved to this city over a decade ago, you would never have seen an event like this. Any night of the week, you could go Uptown and pick and choose your parking spot. Now you’re lucky to find one at all, even on a slow Tuesday night.

This Uptown revitalization is the work of many, many people. It takes a village, after all. Companies willing to invest in Saint John, developers, passionate citizens and creative types who all envision a bright future for this city.

I’m no business person. I know I’m not going to be opening up my own shop or organizing the next big event. But I am a citizen of this city and I’m strongly invested in its future. And I’ll use my voice to shout from the rooftops about what’s happening here.

A city, down on its luck for so long, taking back its destiny. Creating the kind of artful community that gathers under a giant moon and dances in the streets. Dances to celebrate the shedding of its former skin into something new; something fresh. Something inspired.

Here are a few shots I took during the Midnight Bazaar:

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#SaintAwesome Ambassador

This past week, I was invited to a very cool event put on by the good people at Discover Saint John.  The event was a delicious ice cream social, put on as a way to thank a few social media influencers who have really embraced the SaintAwesome hashtag and helped to promote the area on their social media accounts.

I was honoured to be one of the chosen guests.

The event was held at the beautiful and historic One Princess location: part Strong and Free shop and part Airbnb.  The Airbnb suites are beautiful done and have incredible views of the Saint John Harbour and cityscape.

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Views from the balcony at One Princess
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Views from the balcony at One Princess

It was wonderful to meet the team at Discover Saint John.  I so admire the work they do to bring our sweet little gem of a city to the world.  They are all lovely people who are as passionate about this city as I am.  I love that.

It was also great to meet other people in the community, some I’ve followed on social media for awhile.  It’s a reminder that when social media is used correctly, it can bring communities together toward a common goal.

The party was perfect, with a huge spread of sundae toppings and the cutest cookies I’ve ever seen made by The Cooling Rack Cookie Co.  We were gifted with our very own #SaintAwesome Ambassador t-shirts to proudly wear around town and were given a hint at some of the exciting events happening in the city this summer (it’s going to be amazing!).

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Adorable cookies from The Cooling Rack Cookie Co.

I want to thank Discover Saint John to inviting me to be a #SaintAwesome Ambassador, it’s a label I will wear with pride.  I believe that we have something truly special here in Saint John, and we should take every opportunity to share it with the world.


And, when our city does well, we all do well.

Photo Exploration of North End Saint John

I know, I’ve been a bit MIA lately.  Sometimes, you just need a little break, ya know?

It’s not that we haven’t been on some amazing adventures.  And if you follow me on Instagram (link in sidebar), than you know that we’ve been to Parlee Brook Amphitheatre and Fundy National Park this winter, both amazing experiences.  But it’s spring now, and with it comes some nicer temperatures for getting outside and exploring with a camera.

If you are not familiar with the IGers brand of Instagram accounts, it’s a worldwide network designed to bring amateur photographers together.  They organize regular InstaMeets, where you can get together with other members of your community, take some photos and hopefully make a few friends along the way.  We’re very lucky to have our own IGers account here in the city of Saint John, as they are not often given out to cities with a population of less than 100, 000.  But co-moderator Monique Gionet wrote to Instagramers.com with an essay on why we deserve our own account.  I don’t know what she said in that essay, but she won them over.

Yesterday, as part of Worldwide Instagram Meet #15, me and a few other Saint John IGers (@igerssaintjohn) took to the streets of old north end Saint John to spread some love and make some art.

It was such a fun experience.  Talking to people I’ve only known online and who are as passionate about photography and this city as I am was wonderful.  And there was so much to explore in the north end.  Places I didn’t even know existed, like Victoria Square and Nicolle Community Centre.  And the people we met on the streets were so friendly!  From people shouting hello to us from second story windows, to people on the streets who stopped to chat, there is a real sense of community here.  And I think people were happy to see that their often forgotten neighbourhood was getting a little bit of attention.

This neighbourhood has many challenges, that’s for certain.  There were so many more boarded up buildings than I imagined there would be.  But there’s so much potential here, if people would just take a closer look.

Here’s my photo exploration of Saint John North, as part of #wwim15:

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I want to thank Monique and Bryn for organizing such a wonderful event.  I can’t wait for the next meet!

If you’d like to see more photos from our meet and you’re on Instagram, search for the hashtag #wwim15sj.

A Decade in Saint John: My Best Of List

Since posting that I’m celebrating my 10 year anniversary of moving to Saint John, its become clear that my schedule is not going allow me to write a separate post for each of my favourite places in Saint John as I’d hoped .  If you follow me on Instagram, I’ve been posting a few photos of my favourite places in Saint John over there (link on sidebar).

Since time is pressing and October is almost done, I decided that a single post with all of my Port City Best Of’s would be more efficient.

So here are my Best Of Saint John:

Best Place to Find Outdoor Adventure

Rockwood Park – with over 55 trails and endless activities to choose from, you can disappear into the wilderness, right inside the city.

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Best Place to Catch Live Music/Eat Your Body Weight in Wings

Peppers Pub – showcasing the best in local and come-from -away talent.  Wing nights are Thursday.  Get there early.

Best Place to Watch a Sunset

Brothers Cove/RKYC – any night of the week in the summer, you can find people drawn to this beautiful spot to watch the sun disappear over the Kennebecasis River in fantastic fashion.

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Best Views of the City

Fort Howe – panoramic views of the city and harbour.  Also, get a selfie with the famous Saint John sign!

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Best Place to People Watch

King’s Square – pack a lunch and park yourself on one of the benches around the King’s Square Bandstand and watch the people go by.

Best Place to Catch an Amazing Show

Imperial Theatre – a theatre circa 1913, restored in incredible detail.  I don’t know what I love more: The shows or the setting.

Best Place for a Fancy Meal

East Coast Bistro – Chefs Tim Muehlbauer and Kim Steele serve up locally sourced food with a distinctively Maritime twist.  You won’t be disappointed.

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Best Place for Bargain Meal

Thai Pho – owners Julia and Dave Park welcome you to Thai Pho as if it was their home. They take great care to serve delicious Thai and Vietnamese food at a great price.

Best Place to Score Killer Style

Exchange on Germain – selling mid to high-end consignment items, I find something great every time I open the doors.

Best Place for a Cocktail

Port City Royal – house mixologist Eric Scouten was named one of 10 Mixologists Putting Canada on the Map, by destinationcanada.com.

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Best Place to Get a Coffee

Java Moose – I’m going to say specifically in the Saint John City Market, this iconic Saint John coffee company is much loved by locals and visitors alike.

Best Place for a Romantic Getaway

Chipman Hill Suites – with numerous beautiful buildings around historic Uptown Saint John, you can have a romantic getaway right in the heart of the city.

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Best Place for a Walk on the Beach

Bayshore Beach – while most people will tell you that New River Beach is the nicest beach around (and I wouldn’t disagree), Bayshore Beach on the city’s west side allows you to stroll along the famous Bay of Fundy ocean floor in much closer proximity.

A Decade in Saint John: A Month-Long Celebration

A decade ago this October, I packed up a truck-load of all my worldly possessions and drove into Saint John as this city’s newest resident.  I was moving to the Port City to take my first real, grown-up job as a Cytotechnologist at the Saint John Regional Hospital.

Driving into town for the first time, I missed the exit I was supposed to take and ended up driving over the Harbour Bridge.  Classic rookie mistake.  It did, however, give me a chance to see a bit of my new home town.  I remember thinking as I passed through, what is this place?  With the audacity to have its own Hollywood sign and a major highway straight through its centre?

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I think I loved it, right then and there.

It makes sense that I would love it here, really.  Growing up in rural Nova Scotia, I’ve seen so many communities struggle just to stay alive, in much the same way that Saint John has struggled.  Just as people like to root for the underdog, I like to root for the undervalued and unappreciated places in the Maritimes.

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When I first took the job in Saint John, people tried to tell me not to move.  It seemed that Saint John inspired a rather apathetic response in Maritimers, at best.  Why are you moving there? was a common question I received as I prepared to move my entire life there.  That is, except for a couple I met at the restaurant where I worked, who lived in Saint John. They boasted about the beauty of their city and its friendly people.  After chatting with them for a few minutes, I decided that there was hope for my new city, after all.  As it turns out, they were right.

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I haven’t regretted a moment that I’ve spent here.

In many ways, I feel as though I’ve found myself here.  I met the love of my life here and we married three years ago.  We bought a home, set up a busy, satisfying life here.  I have a rewarding career and enough hobbies to keep me busy 24 hours a day.  In the past couple of years I’ve unexpectedly discovered a new purpose: to use my passion and love for the region to spread the word about all the inspiring people and remarkable things that are happening here. Because this place deserves to be seen as more than the Armpit of the Maritimes.  It deserves to be a destination in its own right.

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If you saw the recent CBC documentary about Saint John, City on Fire, then you’ll understand that it’s an exciting time to live in Saint John.  There is a momentum building in the city, and it makes you want to get involved.  To be a part of the movement.  To prove that a community can take control of its own destiny, and decide for themselves who they’re going to be.  We don’t (and shouldn’t) have to wait for government to bail us out.  We can build a better community, all by ourselves, for ourselves.

To celebrate 10 years in the Port City, I’ll be bringing you posts of all my favourite places in the area, all month long.  Those most visited, and those I couldn’t live without.

So, after a decade in Saint John, the only real question left to answer is this: Can I offically call myself a Saint Johner now?

Spring in the Maritimes: Colour has Returned!

It’s the Victoria Day long weekend and it’s sunny and 20+ degrees outside!  It’s the unofficial start to summer, meaning: BBQs, camping, and lazy days at the beach.

Summer doesn’t officially arrive for another month, and really, it feels like spring is just getting started.  The grass is green now (we mowed ours for the first time last night), the leaves are popping out on the trees and bright blooms can be seen on every corner.  In short, colour has come back to our world.

I’ve been playing around with a new camera I bought myself for birthday recently (happy birthday to me!).  It’s my first DSLR so I’m still learning my way around it (there’s so many buttons!).

When I started this blog, it was mostly about wanting to write.  I didn’t realize how much I would fall in love with photography.  There is something wonderful about telling stories through pictures, and no better way to share the beauty of this place.  And I guess the principles of writing and photography are really the same when you boil it down: it’s about noticing things.  Like noticing the way the evening light hits a flower, creating delicate shadows from the stamen on the petals.  It’s about exploring too, and seeing things through fresh eyes.  I would encourage you to take an exploration with your camera or phone, and try to see what you can notice around you.  I promise, it will open up a world of wonder.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to recently.  I’ve got my new Canon Rebel T5 and I’ve been zooming around Saint John taking shots of pretty much everything.  I love the way the DSLR can get you so much closer than the iPhone, which is what I’ve been taking all my photos on.  I thought I’d share a few spring shots with you today.

I hope you all have a fantastic long weekend and enjoy the sunshine while it’s here!

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Irving Nature Park salt marshes
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Saints Rest Beach, Irving Nature Park
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Looking across Saints Rest Beach to the Bay of Fundy and beyond.
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Reversing Falls bridge and the city of Saint John in the pretty evening light.
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Adventures in backyard photography
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Love those little raindrops
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Fresh new maple leaves through soft evening light
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I can’t get enough of that light!
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Here’s those lovely shadows I was talking about.  At Saint John Public Gardens.
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Lily Lake, Rockwood Park
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No swimming yet!
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Forsythia in bloom
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From Fort Howe to the Coast Guard station, SJ is stunning.

A Tale of Two Winters: A Photo Comparison

I don’t know about y’all, but looking at the bare grass on my front lawn and thinking about what it looked like this time last year is sort of freaking me out.  Because this week we’ve had a couple days where we broke records for February daytime high temperatures and last year at this time it felt like we were in some sort of frozen, never-ending hell of snowmageddon.  I guess it just goes to show you how very different winter in the Maritimes can be from year to year.

As un-Canadian as it may be to say this, winter is not my favourite season (shocking, I know).  I find the short days and the long hours of darkness challenging.  Always having to wear snow boots and tracking snow and ice through the house (and then stepping in puddles of cold water in your sock feet, ahh!).  Shuffling like an old lady across the parking lot so you don’t fall and break a hip (don’t laugh, it happened to people last year!). I try to make the most of it and I do enjoy an afternoon’s snowshoe or a morning of skiing, but for me, winter gets old pretty fast.

This winter, we’ve gotten off pretty lucky so far, at least here in the Saint John area. Mother Nature makes no promises however, and we could get slammed everyday from now until April (and maybe even after that).  In fact, snow is in the forecast for tomorrow. For now, I’ll take more of what we’ve been getting.  Thanks, El Nino!

I put together a few comparison shots, so that we can all take a little stroll down memory lane of the winter-from-hell and thank our lucky stars that it’s 2016 and not 2015.

Top: February 21, 2015 Bottom: February 2, 2016

 

Left: February 7, 2015 Right: February 4, 2016

 

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Left: February 7, 2015 Right: February 4, 2016

 

Top: February 7, 2015 Bottom: February 4, 2016

 

Left: February 28, 2015 Right: February 4, 2016

Good luck out there, Winter Warriors!

How do you survive the winter months?

 

Stepping Up For My City

“Ask not what your city can do for you, but what you can do for your city”.

That, of course, is a paraphrased version of the very famous quote by JFK about patriotic duty. Or, in this case, civic responsibility.

This past week, Mayor Mel Norton published a post on his website (previously in the Telegraph-Journal) entitled Our Spirit of Resiliency, where he outlined where Saint John has been, where we are now and how we’re going to get to where we want to be. He called on the citizens of Saint John to pitch in, stating:

“We need you to ask yourself what you can do to foster this city’s ongoing renaissance.  Look around you: others have obviously asked themselves that question and found inspiring ways to answer it.  If you’ll forgive the pun, the ‘burning’ question now is: Have you?”.

Now, I know there has been some argument about whether Saint John really is a ‘Renaissance City’ and whether we should be using the term to describe our city.  I don’t give a shit about all that.  To me, it’s just semantics.  What truly matters is: how do we make our community better?  How do we improve quality of life for Maritimer’s and make this region a place where people want to live and investors want to do business.  I can tell you this: we don’t make our communities better by sitting on our hands.

I know some of you out there are thinking: “Damn it!  I pay my taxes and I vote, isn’t that enough?  What more do you want from me, woman!”

And I think the answer to the question is no.  No, it is not enough to simply live here, pay your taxes and go about the business of life.  Don’t get me wrong, these things are very important!  But in this economic climate, if we want more for our communities than struggling to keep their metaphorical heads-above-water, we need to do more.

I’m as guilty as the next person.  I could do more, I know that I could.  But it’s finding out how best to use your personal skills to help your community that is the real challenge. There are a multitude of ways to contribute to the health of our Maritime communities: from volunteering with non-profit organizations to supporting local businesses to participating in community clean-up days, just to name a few.

There are some people doing incredible things in Saint John that I draw inspiration from: People like Judith Mackin, Michelle Hooton, James Mullinger, the folks at Acre Architects and Third Space Gallery and more.  These people are using their substantial creative talents to build something special in our city.  I think if you look around your community, you will find similar, civic-minded individuals who love their community and want to see it succeed.  And if you don’t, then why not be that person?  Imagine what we could accomplish if we simply stopped our complaining and just got to work?  We would see a very different Maritimes.

So in the future, I will be on the look-out for ways to contribute to the growth and success of my city.  I hope you will too.  And together we’ll build a better Maritimes.

Anniversary Celebration in Uptown, Saint John

Two years ago tomorrow, my husband and I used Chipman Hill Suites as a home base for our wedding. The historic residence of former Mayor Walter W. White, 71 Sydney St. had everything that we needed to create beautiful photo memories of the day and was a comfortable place for out-of-town guests to stay.

On Saturday night, we ventured back Uptown to celebrate our 2nd anniversary, this time at 1 Chipman Hill.  After having been in several of the Chipman Hill Suites buildings, I can tell you that they are exquisitely beautiful with all of the incredible opulence of their time of construction (1854-1857 for the buildings on Chipman Hill). They boast crown moulding, colourful stained glass windows and ornate wood carvings.

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1 Chipman Hill exterior
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Our gorgeous room at 1 Chipman Hill
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Pretty stained glass windows
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Lobby and staircase at 1 Chipman Hill

The furnishings have all been chosen to complement the style of the homes.  I loved the carved wood armoire in our room and admired the lovely chess set and light fixtures in the common areas.

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Ornate armoire
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Loved this little detail in our room
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Chess anyone?
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Lobby light fixture

Susan Fullerton and her team go above and beyond to ensure their guest’s comfort.  I remember having many email conversations with Susan throughout the wedding process on what we needed and how best Chipman Hill Suites could provide it.  She was so helpful.  I guess this is one reason why they are ranked #1 on TripAdvisor among B&B and Inn’s in Saint John.  They are definitely worth checking out if you are planning a trip to Saint John or if you just want a night away from home.

Even though I had a cold and was feeling a little under the weather, I didn’t want to miss out on having dinner Uptown.  We decided on Italian by Night: it was a romantic night after all, so we felt Italian was called for.  All I can say is WOW.  We had an incredible meal and I was so impressed that the chefs had gluten free options so that I could enjoy every course fully.  And I thought the meal was a great value: we split the bruschetta, each had a main as well as dessert (those GF brownies – chocolate heaven!) and a couple glasses of wine for around $80.  For such a fantastic meal – that’s a bargain.

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Bruschetta. ‘Nugh said.
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GF penne for me and and pizza for Joel
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GF brownies for me and tiramisu for Joel

After dinner, we ended our evening out at Bourbon Quarter, where we had a nightcap of Pollen Angels mead for me and a Hammond River brew for Joel while we enjoyed the music from their weekly open mike night.  Then we strolled back to 1 Chipman Hill, having thoroughly enjoyed our romantic evening Uptown.  Saint Romantic, indeed.

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Some fine NB-made nightcaps

Third Shift: A Night of Art and Magic

I wasn’t planning on writing another post about Saint John this week.  But last night, something pretty special happened and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. What happened was that the folks at Third Space Gallery put on Third Shift, Saint John’s first (and hopefully not last) interactive outdoor art show.

Comprised of 17 exhibits from 29 artists and spread over the Trinity Royal District of Uptown, this event was all kinds of magic.  When my husband and I arrived Uptown around 8pm, the event was in full swing and the streets were pulsing with people and excitement.  The Saint John fog was thick and lent a air of mystery to the whole affair. There was a large crowd enjoying Acre Architects’ re-imagining of public spaces, The Park, which transformed Grannan Lane into a sparkling urban oasis, where only a street had existed before.

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Another favourite of mine was I Love You More With Every Remembering by Amy Ash, which asked participants to write a love letter to a place they had left behind and pin them on strings located around Canterbury Car Park.  The exhibit made excellent use of this property, currently undergoing construction.  Picaroons’ was giving away free samples of their brews, soon to be sold in this very location.  The entire property was aglow in red light and looked spectacular, even in it’s unfinished state.

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Crossing the street, we played with the ingenious Light Graffiti exhibit by Kate MacDonald and checked out Photomatic: Travelling Tintype Studio by Karen Stentaford and Christie Lawrence.  Venturing a little further up the street brought us to another magical exhibit, Field Recording by Jud Crandall, where bubbles were floating across Canterbury as an audio recording from a winter snowstorm earlier this year played.  The effect was dreamlike.

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And there were so many more wonderful exhibits.  I don’t think we even saw them all. The event was an unequivocal success.  It gave the people of Saint John, myself included, a chance to experience art in a totally new, inclusive way.  It caused you fall even more in love with your city while at the same time seeing it in a whole new light. And I guess that’s the point of art, to push our consciousness to expand and develop. And Third Shift certainly succeeded.

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I walked by Grannan Lane today and the grass is gone, but the magical feeling remains. And I think few who were Uptown last night will soon forget the experience.  Thank you to all the organizers, artists, contributors and volunteers who made the event a night of art and magic to remember.