The Story of Downtown Live
Downtown Live started over 10 years ago as a small, lunchtime concert series in the newly constructed Heritage Plaza. It was a free concert with a local musician, there were a few vendors and it was promoted as a bring your own brown bag event. The event just wasn’t getting the attendance that was needed and a lot of requests were received to make it an after five event. The One Hundred Acres of Heritage board thought this was a great idea. There are a lot of people working in downtown Longview on a daily basis and perhaps this would serve as an opportunity for them to linger a little longer – and from there Downtown Live was born.
The goal of Downtown Live was to initially get people who work in downtown Longview to stay in Downtown Longview after work on a Friday night and once the event was over, to get those who attended to go continue their evening in Downtown Longview. Beer and wine were sold at the event and occasionally, one of the downtown restaurants would set up a booth to sell sandwiches. However, despite the efforts made, the event failed to grow. People liked it a lot, but it wasn’t really catching on. The people who were attending the event regularly were not the necessarily the people who worked in downtown and the lack of a consistent food presence made it hard for people to stay the entire time. It really needed a shot in the arm. The event wasn’t dying per se – sponsorship dollars were consistent and attendance wasn’t shrinking, but there needed to be a jolt of energy to reinvigorate this event.
Fastforward to April 2016. The jolt of energy needed for this event rolled into Downtown Longview in the form of Food Trucks. Food trucks were officially approved to operate in the Longview City limits as of 2016. We knew a consistent food presence would help the event, but we didn’t know how much that would help. There was an excitement in the air about the food trucks and people wanted to try this new cuisine that had come to Longview and while they were waiting for their gourmet hot dog or street taco, they were able to enjoy the concert at the plaza. People were really starting to enjoy this environment and felt like they were in a big city. Plus, there were new places to check out in downtown Longview after the event was over – a new microbrewery, a great coffee shop and fantastic restaurants.
Attendance grew greatly. From 25-30 people per week at the initial Brown Bag lunch to 150-200 when it went from lunch to after five to now, we have consistently over the course of the last year grown to 300-500 in attendance each week – with some weeks bringing in closer to 800 people. We have also increased the number of concerts per year as well, from 4 in the spring and 4 in the fall to 7 in the spring and 7 in the fall.
The increased attendance has contributed to an increase in our sponsorship dollars. This has allowed us to increase our stipend for the bands. We are now able to have higher quality entertainment for our community – this leads to increased attendance and better exposure for our sponsors. Our beer/wine sales have also increased, thanks to increased attendance. The increased revenue has enabled us to invest directly back into this event – bringing in better talent but also to make significant improvements to Heritage Plaza. We added a permanent stage with power tin February 2017 and are looking to add a permanent stage cover and add power outlets for this event. This event was not really designed to produce revenue initially – the sponsorship dollars that we received in the past covered the expenses.
The growth of this event coupled with the increased revenue has really helped spark a new enthusiasm for our Downtown community and revitalization efforts. Come see what all the fuss is about. The Spring Downtown Live series begins April 6, 2018 and continues every Friday through May 25, 2018.