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Parklets

Parklet … said just like it sounds: park-let.

And, like other words with the diminutive “-let” suffix …

booklet, piglet …

it means the miniature version of its root word, park.

So, parklet = tiny park.

The cool thing about parklets, though, is that they’re not just small-space parks (that’s more the territory of the parklet’s cousin, the pocket park). A parklet is more of a pop-up type of park that may just, well, pop up in unexpected urban places. Often, it’s little more than a spiffy sidewalk extension that provides a bit of greenery and/or sitting spaces for passersby.

Photo by San Francisco Planning Department via Flickr

“Parklets are intended for people,” says Wikipedia. “They offer a place to stop, to sit, and to rest while taking in the activities of the street. A parklet may be thought of as permanent, but must be designed for quick and easy removal for emergencies or other reasons such as snow removal without damage to the curb or street. As initially conceived, a parklet is always open to the public.”

In 2010, San Francisco began the world’s first parklet project—five pilot projects in four neighborhoods around the city—conceived by London-based designer Suzi Bolognese. This is one of the originals:

Photo by Salty Boatr via Wikimedia Commons

Since then, parklets have started popping up in cities around the world, like this lovely 2016 installation in Lodz, Poland:

Photo by Zorro 2212 via Wikimedia Commons

If your city needs a parklet or two, you might be just the gal to get them going. For ideas and how-to tips, turn your local planning department. But first, you might take a peek at Seattle’s handy Parklet Handbook, which details the application process as well as requirements for designing, permitting, building, and maintaining your parklet. It includes expected timelines for each phase of the project and estimated costs. You’ll also find tips for assembling a team and funding your parklet. The handbook is specific to Seattle, but it’ll help point you in the right direction.

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Comin’ Right Up: Summer Solstice

Mark your celestial calendars for June 21 …

the Summer Solstice!

At 12:24 am EST, the earth’s northern hemisphere will tilt toward the sun in its most dramatic fashion of the year, and that means we’ll experience both the shortest night and longest day of 2017.

This event marks the official beginning of summer here on the northern half of the globe, while the southern hemisphere starts its winter season.

This solstice has been celebrated by cultures above the equator for eons, and many of those rituals linger in modern festivities from California to Croatia (and dozens of destinations in between). Here are a few Summer Solstice traditions to tickle your travel bone.

Sânzienele at Cricău Festival in Romania

Photo by Saturnian via Wikimedia Commons

Sânziană is the Romanian name for bedstraw flowers, as well as fairies of local folklore, and the annual solstice festival in the Carpathian Mountains is held in their honor. According to Wikipedia, the most village maidens dress in white and spend all day picking flowers, of which one MUST be Galium verum (Lady’s bedstraw or Yellow bedstraw). The girls braid the flowers into crowns, which they wear upon returning to the village at nightfall. There, they meet the fellows they fancy and dance around a bonfire. The crowns are thrown onto roofs of the village houses. If a crown falls, it is said that someone will die in that house; if the crown stays on the roof, then good harvest and wealth will be bestowed upon the owners.

Stonehenge Solstice Celebration in England

Photo by Paul Townsend via Flickr

“The site itself is cloaked in mystery, and historians, archaeologists and mystics alike have long debated its baffling construction. And while theories abound, we may never know for sure whether it was an ancient burial ground, a temple of worship to ancient earth gods, a prehistoric observatory, or something we’ve yet to consider. Today, the summer solstice draws an eclectic mix of revelers to Stonehenge to witness the sun rising above the stone circle, which aligns perfectly with the summer solstice sunrise,” reports the Huffington Post.

Santa Barbara’s Summer Solstice Parade in the USA

Photo by Antandrus via Wikimedia Commons

Santa Barbara’s Summer Solstice Parade began in 1974 as a lavish birthday celebration for Michael Gonzalez, a local mime and artist. The parade has grown into the largest single-day event in Santa Barbara County, attracting massive crowds of visitors. Weeks before the parade, artists and technicians collaborate with the community to conceive ideas, build floats, make costumes, and prepare for the elaborate June show.

Solstice Fires on Kupala Night in Belarus

Photo by On Being via Flickr

To celebrate Kupala, an ancient fertility rite at the Summer Solstice, young people jump over the flames of bonfires to test their bravery and faith. The failure of a couple in love to complete the jump while holding hands is a sign of their destined separation. Girls will also float floral wreaths of flowers lit with candles on rivers, attempting to divine knowledge of their future spouses. Young men attempt to capture the wreaths in hopes of wooing the women who floated them.

Astrofest in Croatia

Photo courtesy of MaxPixel.com

Astrofest, a celestial celebration of the solstice, attracts amateur astronomers and stargazing enthusiasts to the Višnjan Observatory in Istria, Croatia. According to the Huffington Post, “The event is a unique and magical way to celebrate the solstice, combining science and spirituality, celestial skygazing, and New Age music, drum circles, and performances. Istria also boasts exceptional wine and local cuisine, making the event gastro- and astro-nomical.”

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