At this point, it’s no secret that I’ve been eating my way through Portland for the last two years. I’ve convinced myself that because I walk or ride my bike, a treat every now and then (unfortunately, the literal meaning of those words rather than the infrequent occurrence the colloquial phrase suggests is closer to the truth) is okay. Alberta Street in North Portland is a common destination for me (Petite Provence for Saturday brunch, Pine State Biscuits for the Reggie, Bollywood Theater PDX for Indian street food, Salt & Straw for some of the best ice cream in town). I ride up a hill that I’d otherwise avoid, however, for a slice of pie from Random Order Coffeehouse & Bakery. And it’s open late!
The craving for pie hits often enough that it’s not a surprise that I’d eventually run into “Last Thursday.” Stella! and I would be riding toward Alberta Street and suddenly there’d be a wall of people before us – at least on the last Thursday of the month (the “coincidence” happened three times this summer alone).
Last Thursday began about 13 years ago by the art galleries on Alberta Street. Today, the street is closed to traffic between 15th and 30th Streets on the last Thursday of the month. The event has grown over the years with up to 15,000 people attending during the summer months.
As the event has grown, so have the pressures and burdens on the neighbors living along Alberta Street. “Friends of Last Thursday” is a new organization that works with neighbors, businesses and the city to keep the event a success. They rely on a hundred or so volunteers to help vendors and attendees “leave no trace.” I love that they adapted a wildnerness philosophy to an urban setting.
With an event this big, it would be easy to either shut it down or regulate the life out of it. This seems to be another example in Portland of people talking to each other first to come up with a solution to meet everyone’s needs (the Portland Playhouse and the King Neighborhood Association would be another good example).