Monday, July 26, 2010

Low Key is Key

In recent years summer has been the season when downtown pulls out as many stops as it can in order to draw crowds back. With much success highly publicized events such as the Crim and Back to the Bricks have briefly brought crowds of hundreds of thousands to our own little city center. These events have undoubtedly given people who had never been downtown (or had given up on it) reasons to support it, both in spirit and finance. However it still seemed that once the weekend of races, or roars of engines had ceased the visitors would retreat for the winter, having not found a reason to appreciate downtown outside of those few brief weeks in August.

This past weekend exemplified, in a really lovely way, a very different approach to downtown events. Instead of one massive, expensive affair, bringing thousands of people into our neighborhood interested in a single interest and event; several small events catering to many interests brought life to the city center all weekend long. On Friday the GFAC brought local authors together to present their works to the public, Saturday included the Farmers' Market Bar-B-Q off, a benefit concert at The Good Beans Cafe, and the "Keep on Keepin' on" festival at Riverbank Park. On Sunday afternoon downtown hosted the inaugural "Le Champion Pavé" bicycle criterium.

I love that all of these events happened independently of each other. Even though each appealed to very different demographics and interests, they undoubtedly fed each other and, in turn, gave authentic energy to downtown. What I hope they did, however, was show those who attended that there does not need to be a giant event to make downtown a vibrant living place. Moments like this happen year round. What I enjoyed most about this weekend, though, was that that it felt like it was a weekend for the downtowners. As fun as the larger events are, they depend (and rightfully so) on the tourist dollar. It is the small things, the intimate outdoor concerts, and the exhibit of a local artist that say "community" to me..and truly represent the types of civic life that make a city vibrant.

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