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Bearden park attracts thousands for day of events

By Mark Price
msprice@charlotteobserver.com

Thousands of people converged Saturday on a former 5-acre parking lot in Third Ward to see Charlotte’s newest uptown attraction, Romare Bearden Park.

Park rangers said the first families began arriving as early as 9 a.m. – two and a half hours before a series of concerts was to begin – and the crowd steadily built to a few thousand by mid day. The park honors Romare Bearden who was an internationally acclaimed collagist and talented baseball pitcher. A third day of activities to celebrate the park’s opening continues Sunday, with concerts and master storytelling starting at 1 p.m.

“I never imagined there would ever be a park on this spot, or that anybody would want to spend time at it,” said Wallace Lyles, 62, who came with his wife, Melody.

“I remember it when it was just some old buildings. Now, we’re seeing it as a place to bring our grand kids for the day. What a change,” Wallace Lyles said.

Saturday represented the first full day of community activity at the 5.4-acre park, which was built on a once desolate block in uptown’s Third Ward at a cost of $11 million.

A series of performances, art exhibits and children’s activities were scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. and run though the evening. Park rangers said the visitors began showing up as early as 9 a.m., however.

Among the earliest visitors were Charlene Johnson and Woodrow Curry, an Indianapolis couple, who have been house-hunting here since May. They were accompanied by Johnson’s first granddaughter, 5-year-old Cheyenne Colter.

“We can’t believe what we’re seeing. Where we’re from, we can go to a park on a Saturday morning, and be the only ones there,” said Curry. “I’ve never seen a town that uses its parks like Charlotte.”

Added Johnson: “We’ve been visiting parks all over the city while we looked for a home and we can say that if you are looking for something cheap to do, there’s always something going on in one of this city’s parks. And it’s not just some big city-staged event. It’s the neighborhoods doing things.”

Part of the mornings activities included free tours at the nearby Mint Museum, which has a gallery devoted to more than a dozen of Bearden’s creations.

Mint officials had expected 75 people to take the tour, but ended up with well over 200, many of whom were first time visitors to the museum, officials said.

Melody and Wallace Lyles were among those who lined up for the tour.

“I’m just so proud of Romare Bearden and his art, and that it’s being celebrated by all this,” said Melody Lyles. “We wanted to be here today to be a little part of celebrating his work.”

Price: 704-358-5245
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