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Heard on CultureShift

After 44-Year Run, Dally in the Alley Won’t Happen This September

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Image credit: Sishir Cherry Buddharaju

It’s a block party on steroids,” says Adriel Thornton, the co-president of the North Cass Community Union, the community organization that produces the free, one-day festival each year. It was scheduled for Saturday, September 12th.

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The free neighborhood festival Dally in the Alley started as a protest party 44 years ago.

Wayne State University wanted to tear down some historic buildings in the Cass Corridor just a stone’s throw from campus. The movement to stop their removal slowly became one of the go-to events on Detroit’s fall calendar.

44 years later, Dally in the Alley is being cancelled for the first time in its history due to the coronavirus.

After conversations with the city and looking at the current landscape, we felt like we couldn’t do Dally in a way that was safe and secure due to the global pandemic.” — Adriel Thornton, co-president of the North Cass Community Union

That’s according to Adriel Thornton, the co-president of the North Cass Community Union, which is the community organization that produces Dally in the Alley each year.

It’s a block party on steroids. We’re a small group of volunteers that organize it,” said Thornton. “After conversations with the city and looking at the current landscape, we felt like we couldn’t do Dally in a way that was safe and secure due to the global pandemic.”

The one-day festival was scheduled for Saturday, September 12th.

Dally in the Alley has become a signature event in Detroit's cultural calendar each fall.Sishir Cherry Buddharaju
Sishir Cherry Buddharaju

Dally in the Alley has become a signature event in Detroit’s cultural calendar each fall.

Covering a 4-block radius just south of the nearby college campus, Dally in the Alley has become a massive spectacle. Food vendors, retailers and revelers walk the alleys with beers in hand, listening to up-and-coming musicians performing one of several entertainment stages.

There’s no corporate sponsorship to be found anywhere. It’s a community-ran affair that fuels its budget off of beer sales. The next day’s clean-up effort led by neighbors that live in the festival’s footprint is an equally huge undertaking, leaving little to no trace that anything had happened there the day before.

Last year, Thornton says the City of Detroit estimated that about 120,000 people attended the festival in the span of 12 hours.

There’s no way to socially distance that,” said Thornton. 

In lieu of this year’s Dally in the Alley, Thornton says local businesses will offer “flash discounts” on September 12th in honor of the festival.

A t-shirt and poster for this year’s cancelled festival will also be produced.

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Ryan Patrick Hooper, Host, CultureShift

Ryan Patrick Hooper is the host and producer of CultureShift. As a longtime arts and culture reporter.

hooper@wdet.org Follow @HooperRadio

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