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Natick - Local Town Pages

Natick Nights Returns

By Sean Sullivan 
Since its debut in 2016, Natick Nights have been illuminating the artistic, culinary and business culture of the town. June 1 will see the return of the weekly event, which will run until the end of July.
Natick Nights is one part carnival, one part commerce, and one part creativity. Sprawling outward from the hub of the Common, streets, storefronts and lawns become stages upon which a sort of town-themed talent show plays out.
The Morse Institute Library lawn for instance, becomes a theater for challenges such as the beanbag throw, and other games of skill. Elsewhere, food trucks and vendors, live musicians, artists and artisans, all have their creativity on display to aficionados and consumers.
There’s no charge to participate as a business or put one’s craft on display at the event, if interested parties are members of the Natick Cultural District. Otherwise, the fee for taking part is $20. There’s no cost for nonprofits to partake in the festivities, and attendance is also, of course, free to the public. 
“It’s a really great way to bring all these elements of the downtown together,” said Athena Pandolf. As Executive Director of the Natick Center Cultural District, she was there when Natick Nights first debuted, and has helped bring it back in summers since.    
The event has run from May to August in some past iterations, though organizers have found the two outer months are less of a draw in terms of crowd sizes.
Most schools are still in session in May, and New England can often remain hesitant to commit to fairer weather. And August can serve as a recovery month for vacationers, families and folks burned out after a few months of hot days, road trips and incessant recreation.   
In June and July, organizers and participants have found the event’s “sweet spot.”
The central location of Natick Nights, said Pandolf, makes it a phenomenon impossible to miss even for people just passing through the town’s center. A fair amount of attendance, she suspects, owes to passersby in cars and on foot who stop to see what all the crowds are about.
“They kind of stumble upon it.”
One attraction they may find there is the “Decanted Wine Truck,” a retro-style caravan that hearkens back to the heyday of mobile camping. The trailer has been converted into a store on wheels patterned after the food-truck model, but selling alcoholic spirits in lieu of steak sandwiches.
“It’s a travelling mobile bar,” said Pandolf.
Adams Street will be shut down to cars every other Thursday for Natick Nights, the erstwhile one-way thoroughfare converted for a few hours into the “Adams Street Art Alley.” The short stretch of pavement will become a purveyor of beer, wine, food and music on those days - a truncated diorama of what’s on offer throughout neighboring blocks during Natick Nights.
The nights are also a boost for brick-and-mortar businesses that overlook the many feet meandering sidewalks during those busy hours. Attendees of Natick Nights may decide to slip into a downtown restaurant or any one of the mainstay art vendors that have taken up residence in the town hub for years.
When Natick Nights first came into being in 2016, advertising the new event was a top priority. Now, the night has gained enough renown that it largely speaks for itself. Word of mouth, said Pandolf, and a social media presence are nearly enough on their own to get word out about the event.
“It’s just grown exponentially during that time. We’re really looking forward to it.”