I stood on the roof of the old Elks Building in downtown Dickinson on Thursday night and said to someone, “Why don’t we do this more often?”
And I didn’t mean standing on top of one of downtown’s tallest buildings, though the view was pretty great. Of course, I’m talking about the Alive@5 free street concerts by Gwen Sebastian and Outlaw Sippin’, and everything else that went along with it, from the local law enforcement’s National Night Out to the beer gardens outside of The Rock, bouncy castles for the kids and some pretty delicious food vendors on First Avenue West.
Nights like that need to happen more often in Dickinson, and this city is getting to a point where it cannot only make that happen, it has a population that wants to see it happen.
First of all, kudos to Eric Smallwood and his crew of Alive@5 volunteers, who put in countless hours to make sure the evening went as planned. There were hiccups — including a 2-year-old boy who couldn’t be found just as Gwen Sebastian was ready to take the stage (they found him thanks to help from the crowd) — but, for the most part, everyone seemed to have a great time without any problems.
It was different than anything I’ve seen in Dickinson, probably ever. A couple thousand people showed up for a community-organized event that was not part of Roughrider Days in the heart of summer, when there were plenty of other entertainment options. Plus, it was on a weeknight, so I’m sure there were many who couldn’t come for one reason or another.
It didn’t matter. The streets downtown were packed and people were clearly enjoying themselves.
One of my friends, a local business owner, told me “this is the coolest thing” he had seen in Dickinson since moving back a few years ago. He and several others said we need more events like this.
As many of you know, there have been some consistent themes among newcomers and people who have moved back to the area in recent years. They want more shopping options, lower cost of living, more places to eat and, simply put, more to do.
Eric and the Alive@5 crew proved last week that it’s possible to give Dickinson residents something to do if you just put in the time to make it great.
He was lucky enough to have a bunch of local businesses step up to help defer the cost of getting Sebastian — a Hebron native and national record artist — and her band to Dickinson for the performance.
So what’s next?
First of all, the community needs to keep doing stuff like this to continue breathing life back into downtown Dickinson. This event, and previous Alive@5 Thursday nights, proved that if you give people something to do, they’ll show up. It also shows that doing a little pavement pounding and asking area businesses to kick in sponsorships can go a long way in creating something cool that’ll keep people will remember.
After that, let’s break out of the box a little bit. What else can we do or bring to Dickinson? On Saturday, the Latino community organized a family fun day at the Dickinson Recreation Center. That’s something this city had never seen before, and it’s a good thing for everyone. If you have an idea, look into it. If you’re new to town and want to become more involved, join a nonprofit and start working on your ideas. Odds are, you’re going to find likeminded individuals who also want to help create more opportunities for the community.