For the third consecutive summer, Worthington's main thoroughfare will shut down for a picnic.

Picnic with the Partnership replaces cars and bikes with tables and glasses on High Street between state Route 161 and South Street from 4 p.m. to midnight Saturday, June 23.

Visitors can buy picnic meals from nearby restaurants or bring their own to the event that features music, beverages and extended hours from Old Worthington shops.

The event is meant to project the community feel the partnership is trying to convey, and executive director Annina Parini said the young tradition has grown into exactly what the partnership was wanting.

"The community has really embraced the event, and people have come to look forward to having a community dinner in the middle of High Street and celebrating Old Worthington," she said.

Perhaps the most important change for the picnic came last year with the addition of Worthington's Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, which established boundaries for patrons to walk around with open containers of alcoholic beverages during specified times or events.

Picnic with the Partnership was the debut of the DORA, and all involved said it made the event better, largely because of the removal of plastic fencing that encased the picnic to prevent people from leaving with drinks.

Whitney House owner Ian Brown said the DORA rules made a big difference.

"The DORA allows the event to actually be a true downtown Old Worthington event without it seeming like you're surrounded by snow fencing," he said. "It allows the guests to go into the establishments, which is fun. ... You can get a little bit of everything from everybody. It's terrific."

And even beyond alcohol, the logistical improvement is what Parini noticed most.

"It made the flow a lot better, and it was really able to enhance what we're trying to do," she said.

Parini said a pair of live musical performances will help "kick the party up a notch" but added she doesn't expect the picnic to balloon into a large festival-type setting.

She said the goal always will be to use only "a portion" of the space on High Street so people easily can move around, an approach she called "responsible growth."

"We're always concerned with the guest experience, and if we add too much too soon, it could really become chaotic," she said. "I think we've taken the approach ... that we're really celebrating the historic district instead of having one giant street party."

Brown said he's not sure all the business owners like that High Street is shut down on what would be a busy Saturday, but he thinks the benefits outweigh the negatives.

And, he said, those business owners "have 364 other nights of the year to make up the revenue."

"Does it affect the busiest night of the week? Yeah," he said. "But in the long run, does it make it better for our community and get more exposure to all the businesses in downtown for a great event? Absolutely."

Parini said 500 table seats for the picnic nearly are sold out at $15 per seat, but people can attend the event without a seat for free, though the Partnership asks for donations.

For more information, visit experienceworthington.com.

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