The Partnership for Healthy America is giving the City of Savannah a $50,000 grant to stage a series of street festivals focused on healthy living.
City officials said Wednesday they'll be closing down four streets next year to make way for pedestrians, farmers and artists.
Savannah Housing Sustainability coordinator Garrison Marr says the events build on the success of recent so-called "cyclovias" aimed at promoting recreational biking.
"The great opportunity about this grant is that we're able to bring more programming in to create a more mainstream audience," says Marr.
The street fairs will include musicians, a synthetic ice skating rink and an attempt to break the world hula-hoop record.
Marr says closed roads will eliminate artificial boundaries that separate neighborhoods and institutions.
Diana Morrison of the Healthy Savannah Initiative says the street fairs will allow children to experience a diverse lifestyle.
"It allows them to get outside and play and enjoy and not be overweight and be more comfortable in their own skin," Morrison says.
The objective is to bring the community together and get people active.
The street fairs will include arts, healthy and local foods, and physical fitness.
Local streets that will be included are Price Street, where a new bike lane recently was installed, and May Street, near the West Broad Street YMCA.
Two additional streets will be announced at a later date.
The grant was awarded by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) and Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), which works with the private sector and its Honorary Chair First Lady Michelle Obama to end the childhood obesity epidemic in America.
"We need to encourage our young people to get out, get healthy, and play, and that's what a Play Street is intended to do," Mayor Edna Jackson said. "You will be proud of what we are going to do with these funds. It's going to be fun."
The City will hold four events in 2013, which will include a dozen community groups and combine the arts, physical activity, and local food. They include:
--A Chalk Sports Ciclovia in April, during which the City will attempt to break the world hopskotching record. The event will also be filled with arts and food.
--A Bicycle Block Party in May, which will feature a mobile exhibition of DesotoRow's Spoked bicycle art showcased alongside plenty of bicycle activities, including the Tricycle Time Trials and Light-a-Bike.
--Skate and Shake in September will feature a synthetic ice skating rink set up in the middle of a city street, along with music and other activities.
--Working with the West Broad Street YMCA to expand the group's Fall Festival with help from the Farmer's Market, the Telfair and other partners.
"As Savannah works to make healthy lifestyles as accessible as possible, we need to remember that keeping kids active isn't a secret – they just need places to be kids," said Diana Morrison, Chair of local non-profit Healthy Savannah. "A Play Street provides a place for them to do just that, and it leverages our existing infrastructure. It's inexpensive, accessible and, most importantly, fun for the whole community. And with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia partnering in our efforts we'll be able to bring that much more to the people of Savannah."
Details about the location and dates, and the collaborative of community groups taking on Play Streets events in Savannah can be found online at www.ahealthieramerica.org/playstreets.