Rant: First Fridays on Santa Fe is getting too crowded.

This week marks the last First Friday of 2012. Thanks to Denver’s ever-expanding arts scene, what was once a niche distraction has evolved into a full-fledged, citywide monthly event. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Santa Fe arts district—and that’s the problem.

You see, Santa Fe’s sidewalks are barely three people wide, which on normal, low-traffic days is no big deal. But on First Fridays, the galleries and shops are so packed with visitors that simply navigating the crush becomes an ordeal. It involves inching between galleries, single-file in each direction, sometimes around food carts or tchotchke stands, while carrying on conversations with your companions over your shoulder that further slow the pace.

While it’s fantastic to see such enthusiasm for our creative community, there’s no reason it should be so user-un-friendly. We think there’s an easy fix: Why not just shut down Santa Fe to car traffic from, say, 5PM-11PM on every First Friday? That would enable the food, art, and jewelry vendors to have more room to set up their booths and trucks, and everything would flow much more smoothly, because the de facto street fair would open up the whole district to pedestrians instead of forcing them to creep along Santa Fe’s slim sidewalks. First Friday has always been one of our favorite Denver traditions; that’s why we should always be trying to make it even better.

Rave: Colorado was awarded $30 million as part of the Race to the Top competition.

Also this week, Governor Hickenlooper’s office announced that the United States departments of Education and Heath and Human Services (HHS) have awarded Colorado just under $30 million to spend on early-childhood learning programs as part of the agencies’ Race to the Top competition.

The state has been vying for these funds for several years, passing various benchmarks and coming up just short on a few occasions. But an influx of new research that demonstrates the importance of early-childhood education, along with Colorado’s proposal for how best to implement the findings, has scored a big victory for us and four other states.

Over the next four years the government will disburse the funds, which will be used to align early-learning standards with new and existing programs and facilities statewide, improve educator effectiveness, and create a new Office of Early Childhood in the state Department of Human Services. Colorado’s school advocates have fought a long and grueling battle for this grant, and winning it means our state can continue to be a leader in educational innovation.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

—Follow 5280 articles editor on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.