It’s always nice to take a stroll down to Church St in Burlington, Vermont on a cool summer night
Usually, I wait until the weekend when things are a bit more vibrant and the street is busier. On this early August Tuesday, my wife and I decided to head to Church St for a drink or two. We didn’t expect it to be so busy this early in the week but then again, maybe it was summer vacations winding down. A relatively cool night, after the sweltering hot and humid days that had come before. The street was busy and the sidewalk cafe’s bustling with customers. Ben & Jerry’s was doing brisk business and the usual (or unusual) cast of characters were milling about Church St., living in their own unique worlds. A few of the familiar vendor carts were doing quite well too.
Street Performers on Church Street
We didn’t see many buskers or performers though. Just one guy with a guitar singing some type of folk tunes. We wondered where the usually omnipresent “juggler of Church St.” was, as we hadn’t seen him in quite awhile. Over the many years I’ve walked along the brick lined street, a lot of familiar faces have come and gone. Plaques and statues immortalize the memory of these unique people such as the “Hot Dog Lady” and “Big Joe” Burrell, who seem destined to live there forever. The days long past of when Church St actually had car traffic are but lingering memories. As are the days of the eighties, when U2 and REM music seemed to be blaring out everywhere on Church St.
So with yet another stroll down memory lane, we found ourselves checking out the new Thai restaurant at the bottom of Church St. They seemed to be doing well but we decided it would be a great night to enjoy a couple of German beers on the rooftop of Das Bierhaus instead.
Times Have Changed
2014 update: Beautiful view looking up Church St. and very relaxing until a group of college students showed up at an adjacent table. It didn’t take long before they started an F-bomb laced conversation that everyone else could hear, along with lighting up some nasty smelling cigarettes. We decided to finish our drinks downstairs, wondering if there were any “classy” places left on Church St, where a couple could enjoy themselves in peace. Honestly, I couldn’t think of any. These days, it seems that Church St is more of a party street than ever before. But as we all know, Church St is a chameleon, changing and adapting quickly with the times. Who knows what it will be like in the next 10 years?
2022 update: Sadly, the Church Street experience has declined rather than improved. Burlington Square Mall is now closed, the LL Bean “anchor store” is moving to South Burlington and the funky, casual vibe of Church St has been replaced with panhandlers instead of buskers and street performers. Crime has increased due to a reduction in available police and previously rare, violent crimes such as shootings are not uncommon. No sign of if or when things will improve but for now, the once pristine and welcoming Church Street is certainly not at all “like it used to be”.