Grace Cavanaugh, Staff Writer~
Downtown Lynchburg was electrified last Friday, September 7th, with the Get Downtown festival that encouraged local residents to hang out in the city’s revitalized confines.
Lynchburg’s streets were buzzing as vendors from churches and colleges, musicians, performers, and many other businesses had tables and tents set along the street. Food trucks provided delicacies and refreshments for those who came with an appetite.
Many local business owners said that Get Downtown was an excellent source of promotion for their businesses as it let people know where they were, what they sold, and who they were run by. “It’s pretty good for business,” said Homestead Meats owner Lynn D. White. “I’ve done three Get Downtowns,” said The Birch, The Bear, & The Bee owner Ashleigh Dunne. “This is mainly what I do, is I travel around and do markets and shows and stuff, and this is definitely a super awesome event.”
Local bands, like the Dundies, and DJ’s were set up periodically to provide live entertainment to attendees. There was a fashion show, a children’s orchestra performance, a man painted silver and a winged woman on stilts, as well as plenty of giveaways and free things. “T-shirts and bags and pens and pencils, and I won college classes last year from CVCC. Just free stuff and food, and it’s just a friendly environment,” says Alishia Deeds, a graduate of the former Lynchburg College.
Many college and university students could be found wandering around downtown, enjoying the different activities offered to them. Cailin Dobbins, a senior Nursing major at the University of Lynchburg, has attended every year of Get Downtown. For her friends, fellow Lynchburg Hornets Christian Lohiser, Seija Wynn, and Jennifer Williams, this was their first or second year. “[We come down for] Benny’s, and the environment. There’s always music.”
Wynn added, “And the dance groups are really cool.” Even those that graduated from the local colleges and universities were in attendance. “This is our third year,” says Alishia Deeds. “My son has a lot of fun,” she added. She was pleasantly surprised about the addition of the beer garden this year, stating, “It was nice just to have an adult space.”
Judge Browning, a recent graduate from Lynchburg College, works at Pacific Life, one of the sponsors of Get Downtown. It was the first time he and his friends, Carl Thurmon and Johnny Piedra, had attended the event. “It’s the most crowded I’ve seen this part of Lynchburg ever,” says Piedra. Browning added, “There’s something in our culture that makes us want to be isolated and spend our time indoors, watching television, playing video games, looking at our phones… It’s nice to have a night where people get out and walk around and interact and see people they haven’t seen in years, and this seems to be serving that purpose.”
Volunteers made sure that events were running smoothly, and supplied merchandise to those who wanted a T-shirt, hat, or light-up toy. “This is our third year,” say Muriel Mickles and Bethanie Mickles, Esq. They volunteered with their sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Inc., specifically the Epsilon Kappa Zeta graduate chapter. “[We’ve seen] lots of people today, old friends and making new friends,” says B. Mickles. To volunteer for Get Downtown 2019, they say to go to the Get Downtown website, click the ‘get involved’ button, and your email will be added to a mailing list for information
Get Downtown was also a Passport Event for University of Lynchburg students. “We’ve participated every year, so this is our 10th year,” says BJ Keefer, the director of student engagement and leadership development. “It used to be that it was just First Year Engagement and…Student Engagement [that volunteered]. [This year] we partnered with athletics and alumni, first year programs, and the office of Student Engagement, and just the divisions of the office as well.” According to Keefer, there was an estimated 300 students that came to downtown Lynchburg.