New Broken Arrow festivals helping revitalize downtown
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Monday, December 31, 2012
12/31/12 at 8:08 AM
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BROKEN ARROW - Two new festivals on Main Street this year drew about 5,000 visitors who likely spent tens of thousands of dollars at downtown Broken Arrow businesses, officials and merchants said.
At least 2,000 of them had never previously been downtown, city Events Coordinator David Blue estimated.
"That's 2,000 people who never would have come to downtown Broken Arrow," he said. "It serves the purpose everyone's doing to try to revitalize downtown."
The city-managed events - a chalk-drawing festival called "Chalk it Up" and a combination car show and food festival dubbed "Grills and Grilles" - were important early victories in an effort to make downtown a regional destination, Blue said.
Although the popular Rooster Days festival draws tens of thousands of people to the area each spring, the new smaller events give people a reason to come at different times of the year, he said.
In their first year, they drew people from as far as Arkansas and central Oklahoma, and attendance is expected to increase - perhaps significantly - when they return in 2013, he said.
"Any time a new event comes along, people want to step back and see what the success was, and the next year they're more likely to commit to it, whether it's volunteering or sponsoring," he said.
Patsy Terry, who represents the Main Street Merchants' Association on the city's downtown Advisory Board, said the value of the new events became evident in the weeks and months afterward, when the attendees returned to shop.
"A lot of (merchants) didn't get a lot of walk-ins from the events," she said. But "the fact that (visitors) were here and saw that we had good things brought them back."
She added that the exposure was good for her Main Street flower shop, Arrow Flowers and Gifts, whose walk-in shoppers during the events commented that they did not know the shop was there.
"Actually, we've been here since 1954," she said.
Chalk it Up featured 30 chalk artists in June doing "just any type of art they wanted to do" - even drawing on the street, Blue said. Jugglers, stilt walkers, "living statues" and opportunities for attendees to participate were included, he added.
The event won an award from the Oklahoma Recreation and Parks Society.
"It was a very unique event," Blue said. "The research I did before we put this on showed that there weren't any like it around here at all."
The next rendition of the festival will run June 7 and 8. It will include more entertainment and more activities both days, he said.
Grills and Grilles - "as in a car grille and a charcoal grill," Blue said - brought "a couple hundred" unique cars downtown, along with hamburgers.
The only unsuccessful part of the event was the food. People seemed to prefer downtown's restaurants, Blue said.
"The restaurants are saying that it was the best day they've ever had in downtown Broken Arrow," he said. "That's something people are wanting to see a lot more of from events downtown."
The event will be "bigger, better" when it returns Oct. 19, he said.
Although other events occur on Main Street each year, Chalk it Up and Grills and Grilles are the only Main Street festivals managed by the city.
No new city events are planned downtown in 2013, but a new event could be created with only months' notice if there is desire to do so, Blue said.
Original Print Headline: Broken Arrow festivals helping downtown growth
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486