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Straz Center to celebrate reopening with free Tampa block party

After a year of layoffs and dark stages, the block party called Straz is Back will celebrate the return of live shows with free entertainment.
The Straz Center for the Performing Arts is holding a free block party on Oct. 16.
The Straz Center for the Performing Arts is holding a free block party on Oct. 16. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Oct. 5
Updated Oct. 7

After weathering one of its most difficult periods ever, the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts is hosting a free block party next weekend called “Straz is Back.”

The Oct. 16 party will be held outdoors along the Riverwalk with entertainment on two stages, including aerialists, food trucks, a maker’s market, live art and family-friendly activities.

In March 2020, the Straz Center closed the curtain on all performances, classes and events because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hall laid off more than 100 employees and received a $2.8 million federal loan as part of the government’s Paycheck Protection Program.

Related: Straz Center to require vaccine or negative COVID-19 test for entry

It opened a few shows in October, with the audience distanced and limited in size.

“The public has been so loyal to the Straz through this thick COVID fog that we wanted to throw this block party in appreciation of that support,” said Judy Lisi, president and CEO of the Straz Center.

This fall, the Straz unveiled a full season of shows for its 2021-22 season. They range from the Tony Award-winning Dear Evan Hansen to Next Generation Ballet’s Nutcracker and Disney’s Frozen.

Since reopening, the center now requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination for admission, as well as masks while inside the facility.

The block party Oct. 16 will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. Here is the schedule for the outdoor performances:

Arrival Plaza Stage

Three local acts perform music ranging from hip-hop to R&B to rock.

4-4:30 p.m.: Taylor Reed

4:45-5:30 p.m.: Johnny Mile and the Kilometers

5:45-7 p.m.: Mike Mass & Wave Theory

Riverwalk Stage

Opera Tampa kicks off the party before the area’s best drag queens, showgirls and leading men celebrate the return of Broadway.

4-4:30 p.m.: Selections by Opera Tampa

4:45-5:30 p.m.: Variety Show Part 1

5:45-6:30 p.m.: Variety Show Part 2

Variety Shows are hosted by Matt McGee, featuring performances by Colleen Cherry, Doug Buffaloe, Belinda Womack, Zeal Milan, Ashlee T. Bangkx, Gabrielle Fearce Santi and more. Music is performed live by the Straz Center House Band led by music director Jeremy Douglass.

Live Art by Cam Parker and Nneka Jones and an interactive installation from Crab Devil will be showcased at the event.