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Thousands flock to fourth annual Peterborough Pulse

Watch: Peterborough Pulse takes over the downtown core.

A car-free street festival brought thousands of people into Peterborough’s core, packing the area with pedestrians and cyclists on Saturday, July 21.

“We’re hanging out on the streets, and we’re trying to get folks to engage in active transportation,” said Hillary Flood, one of the organizers behind Peterborough Pulse. “Before they know it, they’re walking, biking and heck, even socializing in a space that’s usually dedicated to cars.”

Pulse shuts down George Street to cars for a day as a way to highlight and encourage alternative transportation. To hammer home the point, a pop-up park was set up at the intersection of Charlotte and George streets, a site normally packed with traffic.

Children were handed sidewalk chalk and encouraged to leave their mark on the asphalt.

“It’s about re-imagining what a street could be. When we put people in the centre of it, that’s when our community starts opening up,” Flood said.

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About 60 vendors and community groups set up tents, selling their wares and letting people know what they were all about. Restaurants sold everything from danishes to cold drinks. A rock-climbing wall towered over the pavement, and outside city hall, Tai Chi practitioners showcased their moves with a slow grace.

The Peterborough Astronomical Association brought out their telescopes to give residents a chance to glimpse the sun’s solar flares Saturday afternoon, drawing a crowd of all ages.

“We want to educate people, to just let them know that we’re here, and to educate them about the world around us, the solar system, and the universe,” said publicity manager Rick Stankiewicz.

The Peterborough DBIA sees it as a chance to highlight what’s good downtown.

“Festivals are essential for a downtown’s essence. It is what separates the downtown from every other part of the city,” said DBIA executive director Terry Guiel. “It’s what makes downtown unique.”

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In fact, Guiel says Pulse has become the downtown’s most popular event. He expected as many as 11,000 people to attend.

But this year’s route is shorter than previous years by about four blocks. Last year, the route stretched out along Little Lake to Crescent Street. This year, Pulse ended at Sherbrooke Street.

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Guiel says he’d like to work with the city to change that.

“We will animate it and we will fill it. Just allow us to expand the route,” he said.