In 2018, DHI will host “free to attend” events on over 100 days of the year from January to December. These free activities include signature events like Tinsel Trail, Food Truck All-Stars, L.I.T., Buskerfest, Paddle the Canal and other destination gatherings. They also include smaller but important regularly scheduled events like Under the Lights, Busker Fridays, and the Friday Night Art Walks.
When we plan these events, we keep three important philosophies in mind. Let’s take a look at these three strategies.
1. “Free to Attend”: Over 95% of the events that DHI presents each year are free to attend. While we certainly hope you purchase food from food trucks and art from art walk vendors, the Free to Attend model allows you to browse and explore great Downtown spaces like the Courthouse Square and Big Spring Park and enjoy the event environment without having to spend money. We believe this strategy reduces one of the biggest barriers to participation (required paid admission) and, in doing so, promotes inclusivity on many levels.
The Free to Attend model also allows our guests to save they money they might have paid on a cover charge or paid admission at a DHI event and use it at one of our great private establishments or events that may require paid admission or a cover charge. In other words, you can combine a free DHI event with a visit to one of our Downtown entertainment venues, museums or other paid admission facilities.
Finally, the Free to Attend model allows you to “test drive” a DHI event without having to decide if it’s worth the money to try out. While we’re confident you’ll enjoy our events because of the time and creativity put into them, even if you didn’t have a blast, you won’t have buyer’s remorse because it was Free to Attend. All of these reasons combine to make “Free to Attend” one of the key DHI event strategies.
2. “Eclectic Yet Approachable”: This is one of our favorite philosophies because it really embraces DHI’s unique approach to event planning. The “approachable” aspect means that our events seeks to reach a broad audience. “Eclectic” means that they are innovative and unique in addition to that approachability. The combination means that events can still appeal to a broad audience without being “dumbed down”.
A great example is the annual Downtown Open: Pop Up Putt-Putt course each June. Mini-golf is a very approachable game that appeals to a wide and diverse audience. It’s one of those activities that, regardless of your skill level, you can still have lots of fun. At the same time, you normally don’t expect to see 32 holes of free mini-golf holes (along with free putters and balls!) winding through the Downtown sidewalks for two weeks each summer. The unexpected surprise combined with the wide audience appeal makes the Downtown Open a perfect example of “Eclectic Yet Approachable”.
3. “All Ages Friendly”: Downtowns are designed to be where a diverse cross-section of the population gathers to live, work, and play. The goal is to create unique experiences for everyone from 1 to 91 years old (and all in between). This can be challenging because many activities are age or interest-specific.
To counter this, the DHI Team is constantly challenging ourselves to great “All Ages Friendly” events. Not to be confused with “Family Friendly” (which is a very specific segment), all ages friendly events contain different features that appeal to different ages. The annual LIT: Light + Innovation + Technology event is a great example.
Each October, the Downtown area comes alive with digital art projections as well as exciting music and other light-themed activities. The event is the epitome of “All Ages Friendly” with guests of all ages awed and inspired by the different light activities. From EDM music to lighted wrist bands, the reach and appeal of LIT is one of the broadest of any DHI event each year.
These 100+ days of DHI events each year bring weeks of fun to Downtown Huntsville, but they also have an important economic development impact. Direct revenues include sales tax from event vendors plus municipal fees paid by those vendors. Indirect revenues result from the thousands and thousands of DHI guests that attend the events and then eat, dine, shop, and play at Downtown restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues.
That’s why we’re proud to say that DHI events return benefits to our guests, our vendors, Downtown businesses and our local government partners!