Sheehan

Wide Open, for real

STAFF WRITERJuly 28, 2010 

Because I am an incredibly hip and cool mother, I like to pepper my conversations with hip and cool terms such as "Sa-weet." Or "It's all Gucci."

And of course: "That's tight."

These remarks - all of which are positives, by the way - never fail to prompt the death stare from my teenager.

"A little part of me dies inside every time you say that," he says (to my pure delight).

I thought about my expanding lexicon as I read Raleigh Convention Center director Roger Krupa's remarks about the"urban cool" feel of the city's amphitheater. Krupa's such a hipster.

But the Amphitheater Formerly Known as Bud Light is just one component of a downtown that has long been teetering at the edge of being legit. (Translation: for real,solid, cool.)

"I think we are there!" enthused Taylor Traversari, an event organizer with the city who has been involved with Raleigh Wide Open since its debut in 2006.

The timing, dare I say it, is Sa-weet.

State number crunchers think (and no doubt U.S. Census figures will confirm in December) that Wake County has edged out Mecklenburg County in population.

This is no huge surprise. Even Charlotteans have to admit Wake's a lot nicer place to live, and our schools are better - though Lord knows what the future holds.

But who knew Raleigh's downtown would be part of Wake County's growth?

For many years it appeared that Wake would just keep expanding outward, one treeless subdivision after another, while the inner core of the county, the Capital City's downtown, would implode for lack of vitality. For those of you who have moved here recently, this may be hard to imagine.

Back in the late '80s, the Mecca and the Belk's cafeteria were your choices for fine dining on the Fayetteville Street Mall. Even into the late '90s, after the suits went home from work, it was tumbleweeds and trouble on the mall.

Then Mayor Charles Meeker pushed to reopen Fayetteville Street, and the downtown renaissance began in earnest. Even those of us who live most of our lives outside the Beltline began to imagine a city we could be proud of. A city where you might actually visit downtown with out-of-town guests.

The city's first Raleigh Wide Open was intended to celebrate the re-opening of Fayetteville Street. Even the organizers were stunned when RWO drew 70,000 people.

Since then, the event, like the city, has continued to evolve.

"Now it's evolved into something like a city center festival," Traversari said.

Last year, more than 40,000 attended Raleigh Wide Open. This year, organizers expect an even bigger crowd.

The weather is supposed to cooperate. And this year, Traversari said, in addition to music and food, Raleigh Wide Open will also showcase an "extreme" element - with BMX, skateboarding and even pro wrestling.

Ah, the young, hip and cool crowd.

In Raleigh.

That's tight.

ruth.sheehan@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4828

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