Downtown Live has done a lot of growing over the past decade, and it is now a signature outdoor music series attracting hundreds of music and food truck fans to Longview each week in the Spring and Fall. Here’s the story of how it began and grew.
What: Downtown Live outdoor music series featuring music, drinks, and food trucks
When: Friday evenings from 5 - 8 p.m. in April, May, September, and October
Where: Heritage Plaza in Downtown Longview, 219 E. Methvin St.
The event 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, which hosts the event and leads the Main Street program, 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 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.
Fast-forward 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. With the success of the event, the One Hundred Acres of Heritage board has reinvested into Heritage Plaza by adding improvements such as a new stage, stage cover, and electrical outlets for the food trucks. The growth of this event 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 is underway and includes a special double shot event. On Friday, May 24, Cole Allen will be followed by Meredith Crawford and then a special jam session will feature them playing together!