Eileen Donoghue was sworn in as Lowell’s city manager in 2018, becoming the first woman to hold the position in the Mill City. (SUN/Meg McIntyre)
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LOWELL — Even with signature events like the Folk Fest canceled this summer, city officials still hope to bring musical performances to downtown Lowell.

Cultural Affairs and Special Events director Henri Marchand described a plan to hire bands and other entertainment to attract people to restaurants and shopping in downtown Lowell this summer.

“People could stand and listen and then move to have dinner,” he said.

The proposal was outlined in a memo from Marchand and Director of Economic Development Christine McCall, which they presented to the City Council last week.

City Manager Eileen Donoghue initially discussed the initiative with The Sun the previous week.

“It’s impossible to replace the folk festival and the Summer Music Series at Boarding House Park,” Donoghue said, referring to the other iconic summer Lowell series of events canceled by the pandemic. “But as restaurants reopen this will be a fine complement.”

Officials suggested hiring entertainers twice a week, likely on weekend evenings, from July through September.

Marchand said the location of the entertainment could change from night to night to include more areas of the downtown. After the state moves into phase 2 of reopening, people dining outside at restaurants could watch or listen to the performances, he said.

“We will collaborate with the Transportation Engineer, Parking Department, and Lowell Police Department, on select days/evenings throughout the summer, to shut down portions of our downtown streets to encourage attendance at these events that will allow for maximum space to maintain appropriate physical distancing requirements,” according to the memo.

Marchand said the cost of hiring performers could be paid through the festival account fund. Typically these funds would be used for other, now canceled, summer events.

“While these may not replace the Lowell Summer Music Series or Lowell Folk Festival, the goal is to work in concert with the proposed outdoor seating plan to help draw people to downtown with unique performances in order to assist restaurant and business efforts in generating foot traffic and sales,” according to the memo.

Marchand said the amount available for this project depends on next year’s budget.

The proposal is based off of last year’s events at Kerouac Park, he said.