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The 'Welcome Back to the Heart of Portland' events will include free, family-friendly music, activities and more.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN VILLAGOMEZ - Teresita Sablan, a singer/songwriter and co-owner of Rated ILL Records,
who performs under the name Lee Goddess, speaks Thursday at an event to welcome people back to Portland.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and community leaders spoke downtown on the Portland State University campus Thursday, June 22, to announce a weekend of fun and to welcome people back to the heart of the city.

The "welcome back" weekend will include free, family-friendly activities including local art, food and music between July 23 and 25 to celebrate Portland's reopening. A full list of events Friday through Sunday is detailed here.

Highlighted events include a sing-along with local band Pink Martini, a pop-up market, a light display on the Morrison Bridge and the official opening of the new food cart pod, the Cart Blocks — a long-awaited arrival coming after the closure of an iconic downtown cart pod in 2019.

"We're inviting everyone in our community to come celebrate the reopening of downtown," Wheeler said. "And to experience all that the heart of Portland has to offer."

The weekend of recovering Portland also will include Meeting of the Minds, a networking opportunity and music event organized by PDX Hiphop Collective and Rated ILL Records. The meetings happen regularly, but this will be the first one hosted in-person since the pandemic.

"We're excited to be able to get everybody together face to face and just to be together — do something positive," said PDX Hiphop Collective founder David Jackson, or DJ O.G.ONE. Everyone is invited to the Meeting of the Minds, said Lee Goddess, co-owner of Rated ILL Records and member of the PDX HipHop Collective.

To make this weekend happen, Wheeler said his administration helped organizers find locations and quickly secure permits. The administration also added a mobile COVID-19 vaccination site, which will be at Pioneer Courthouse Square this weekend, and identified $30,000 to sponsor some of the events and community activation, he said.

"It may seem a little strange today that we're celebrating and have a weekend full of activities when there's still a lot of work to be done. And I can tell you on behalf of one volunteer and the numerous volunteers on the mayor's action tables, that we understand the hurdles and the challenges that are ahead," said Monique Claiborne, president of Greater Portland Inc. and co-chair of Portland's Business Success and Job Creation action table.

Wheeler also said he increased the budget for graffiti removal and litter collection, so those resources will start "coming into the field now," and the city isn't seeing as much of the regular vandalism and violence downtown that it had seen a few months ago.

The city of Portland convened five action tables in early 2021, Wheeler said. The nearly 300 community members involved have since been working hard to "help the city identify policy changes, propose specific and actionable outcomes, specific investments and form partnerships, all in the interest of rekindling our economic recovery and reopening our vibrant city," he said.

"(The action tables) come together as a community of people who are all passionate about bringing together our city for different kinds of sports, music, performing arts, food and drink, wine," Michelle David, co-chair of the PDX Recovery and Events action table, said. "Everything that makes Portland fun, to be honest."

This weekend also will include 18 other pop-up performances — including on the Polka Dot Downtown installation at Pioneer Courthouse Square. Other free events will include mural painting, roller skating, acting and dress-up opportunities and more.

The "Welcome Back to the Heart of Portland" event is open to all ages. Events start as early as 11 a.m. and end as late as 11 p.m. throughout the weekend. The light display on Morrison Bridge will go from 6:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night.

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