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Festival Leaves Mark on Downtown Sidewalks

Food vendors at this weekend's Raleigh Wide Open event left a greasy mess on downtown sidewalks after the packed up their carts Saturday night.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The City of Raleigh could end up replacing bricks on downtown sidewalks following an unexpected result of this past weekend's second annual Raleigh Wide Open celebration.

About 25 large stains marked the brick sidewalks along the 300 and 400 blocks of Fayetteville Street, where food carts sat during the weekend festival. There were also dozens of smaller spots where festival attendees ate — and dripped and dropped — fried foods.

Crews from the city Parks and Recreation Department spent much of Monday morning power-washing the sidewalks to erase the stains. The city also hired a private contractor to help with the power-washing.

City officials said it would take a few days for the bricks to dry completely so they can determine if the cleanup effort worked.

If it does not, the city will have to replace some of the sidewalk bricks, which were put in place a year ago as part of the city's $9 million project to reopen Fayetteville Street to traffic.

"We're hoping that by using particular products, we'll be able to remove the marjority of the grease. In instances where that can't happen, we basically have to replace the pavers," Raleigh Parks Superintendent Wayne Schindler said.

The city has some bricks left from last year, but there is no estimate on how much it would cost the city to tear up and replace sections of the sidewalks.

"I don't really know the magnitude of the cost at this time," Schindler said.

Food vendors were to have set up in the street instead of on the sidewalks, but space considerations for a parade down Fayetteville Street likely required that vendors be on the sidewalks, festival organizers said.

Organizers and city officials said festivals like Raleigh Wide Open, which attracted about 100,000 people, often produce unwanted side effects.

"Vendors ought to be more careful about grease dripping onto the sidewalk downtown," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said. "At the same time, any time you have a huge party … you're going to have wear and tear. That's part of it."

They said they would learn from the grease problem and that one proposal for the future would require vendors to put a barrier on sidewalks to prevent the problem from recurring.

Had the bricks been treated with a sealant, city leaders said, the grease spots would not have been an issue. But the sealant causes the bricks to become slippery in the rain, which poses a liability issue. The city is also revisiting this as a possibility.


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