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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Dave Alexander Shares Thoughts on Summertime in Downtown

MUSKEGON – One’s perception of downtown Muskegon is so driven by when you visit.

Samantha Harkins, the president of the Michigan Municipal League Foundation, spent time in downtown Muskegon on a sleepy Thursday evening in May. 

In an MML blog post, Harkins recently wrote: “What (downtown Muskegon) didn’t have, as I explored on an idle Thursday evening, was people. I didn’t get it. I love it downtown.” 

Photo Courtesy Carla Flanders

Harkins impression of downtown Muskegon would have been completely different if she had strolled West Western Avenue Friday night June 4. She would have seen several thousand people enjoy the second First Friday event – more than two dozen Muskegon Street Performers showing off.

The seven blocks of jugglers, dancers, drummers and musicians from the Depot to the Muskegon Farmers Market, in combination with the first 2016 Parties in the Park in Hackley Park and the Fruitport High School graduation in the L.C. Walker Arena, had downtown Muskegon on fire.

Photo Courtesy Carla Flanders

The First Fridays Muskegon Street Performers family-friendly event had Positively Muskegon’s Andy O’Riley write me as head of Downtown Muskegon Now before the Muskegon Street Performers were done  My two cents on the matter is double down on the first Friday thing immediately. Get the performers back,” O’Riley pleaded suggesting we have a Second Friday at the end of this week.

Well Andy, the Muskegon Business Improvement District will have the Muskegon Street Performers and Rachel Dody’s great event team back the First Friday in August. Mark Aug. 5 on your calendar and be in downtown Muskegon from 6-8 p.m.

So what is the lesson of the Harkins’ blog post and this past First Friday? 

Photo Courtesy Carla Flanders
I’d say that Muskegon is on the cusp of creating a very special downtown. It is just going to take time, and I continue to preach patience. Harkins, in an extraordinary commentary on downtown Muskegon, gets it.  “I absolutely love their downtown,” Harkins wrote about her recent visit to Muskegon. “It has beautifully restored buildings, creative public art, a gorgeous historic theatre and several good restaurants. (A lack of people) just means as the city and community leaders get further along in the city’s resurgence that downtown is poised to be packed every night. I won’t get a table at Smash Wine Bar & Bistro quite so easily.”

Savvy Muskegon observers know that at this point in its history, downtown Muskegon can be eerily vacant some nights but come the summer events and festival season, downtown is alive and the center of entertainment and culture along the Lakeshore.  And we are just starting downtown’s finest season with Taste of Muskegon June 17-18, the Lakeshore Art Festival July 1-2 and Rebel Road July 14-17 to name three major upcoming events.

Harkins needs to come back and see a people-filled downtown Muskegon in its full glory. Even seeing the sleepy version of downtown, she still came to this conclusion about our community:
“I’m convinced this is the next place we’ll all be talking about. It’ll be the next Grand Rapids or with its water the next Traverse City. We’ll all be talking about how amazing Muskegon is, and I want to document it right now that I called it.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Read Harkins’ entire blog post on Muskegon here:

Dave Alexander is a former writer for the Muskegon Chronicle and now heads up Downtown Muskegon as the Executive Director and is a contributing columnist to Positively Muskegon

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