By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — The Team Haverhill civic organization will detail plans for the return of downtown’s River Ruckus festival at its annual “Possible Dreams” event Jan. 28 at Northern Essex Community College’s Technology Center in Haverhill.
This year’s theme “Eyes on the Stars, Feet on the Ground” symbolizes Haverhill’s growing aspirations for cultural and economic vitality, as well as a growing realism about what it takes to implement inspiring initiatives, according to a press release about the event.
“The idea is that all we all get together and talk like neighbors in a friendly cafe,” Team Haverhill president Alice Mann told the City Council last week.
River Ruckus is a one-day festival born from the 2010 “Possible Dreams” event organized by the Team Haverhill volunteer civic group. It is planned for early September and will feature downtown activities along the river, including a car show, band performances and boating and other activities on the water. Team Haverhill’s 2010 event was aimed at developing ideas to take advantage of the Merrimack River as a tourist attraction and economic development asset.
Mann said the group will unveil “four or five” new initiatives at this year’s event as well as lay the foundation for future projects. Attendees will be arranged in small groups around cafe-style tables, she said, while volunteers circulate to see what ideas are “percolating” among the larger group.
“We especially want to invite new residents to learn about their community,” Mann said, adding that those who want to attend are asked to register ahead of time at Team Haverhill’s Web site. “I expect the news that UMass-Lowell is planning to open a satellite campus in downtown Haverhill will spark a lot of conversation.”
Since 2008, Team Haverhill’s visioning events have spurred successful initiatives such as citywide curbside recycling of all items, revitalization of the city’s farmers market and the creation of the River Ruckus festival, which was held in 2010 and 2011, but not last year.
Mann said the farmers market had shrunk to just two vendors before Team Haverhill made expanding it a top goal a few years ago. Last year’s market featured more than 20 vendors, live entertainment and activities for children, she said.
Plans for the downtown community mural on Essex Street and the “Shoes of Haverhill” project were also hatched at previous “Possible Dreams” events.
“Team Haverhill and this event are so successful because a lot of their ideas come to fruition,” City Councilor Thomas Sullivan said.
Recent “Possible Dreams” workshops have been attended by more than 125 people, including a mix of residents, public officials, organizational leaders, business owners and volunteers, Mann said. More than half the 140 seats at this year’s event have already been reserved, she said.
There is no cost to participate in the event, which begins at 6:30 p.m. with coffee and sign-in. Walk-ins are welcome, Mann said, but preregistration is requested to insure adequate seating. Register online at possibledreams.eventbrite.com or send an e-mail to TeamHaverhill.PossibleDreams@gmail.com for more information.
Team Haverhill, formed in 2006, describes itself as an independent, volunteer action group dedicated to making Haverhill a better place to live, learn, work and play. According to its website, the group pursues that purpose “by fostering civic dialogue, organizing hands-on projects, creating a more informed public, and advocating for positive change.”