It seems that every year as soon as the weather begins to warm up, we experience some “quality of life” issues in certain areas of downtown. For the past three or four years, the NDDC has met with our elected officials, city staff and the police department in an effort to address these issues.
Earlier this week, I attended a brain-storming session with the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). The focus was on identifying as many visitor-attracting assets as possible, particularly those beyond the “usual suspects”.
Everyone was asked to name a local attraction for visitors and encouraged to stretch their minds a bit. Folks came up with a number of items, and I’ll categorize them generally as natural beauty, recreational opportunities, historic sites (and stories), arts and culture, or food and shopping.
Hayes Scriven, Northfield Historical Society executive director and, finally, member of the CVB board, reminded us, as he always does, that you need a package of ten of these attractions to encourage visitors to spend the night in Northfield. I thought about my own experience as a visitor.
My wife and I checked out Hibbing for our 25th wedding anniversary. Admittedly, we’re pretty big fans of Bob Dylan. However, even for those who might not appreciate his music, there’s a lot to do in that far northern town.
Here I am in front of the house in which Bob lived until he graduated from high school. I had recently read a biography of Bob and located the site on our way into town. The Chamber of Commerce was our next stop, they sponsor the annual Dylan Days, and we picked up their “Short & Unauthorized Tale of Bob Dylan’s Life in Hibbing”. They also had a number of cool posters from Dylan Days.
We then headed over to the public library and checked out the exhibit of historic Bob memorabilia. The library also had maps of the Bob Dylan Walk. By the way, Hibbing’s downtown is very walkable. We checked on the impressive Androy Hotel, site of Bob’s Bar Mitzvah, and the spectacular 1923 Hibbing High School, just outside the central business district, from which Bob graduated, with 424 others, in 1959.
Then we did the shopping thing (passing by the Agudeth Achim Synagogue on the way) including Rupar Music (formerly Crippa Music) where Bob heard all the latest releases and I admired the guitars, and the St. Vincent de Paul, where we found some overalls for our youngest daughter. We were aided in our purchasing excursion by the Downtown Hibbing Shopping Guide, sponsored by the Downtown Merchants Association.
Then it was time for a late lunch. We, of course, ate at Zimmy’s, surrounded by images of Bob.
That’s only nine things; I had to be at a meeting the next morning and so our exploration was cut short. However, on the way out of town, we swung by North Hibbing and saw the mine that was once the location of the original town of Hibbing and Bob’s home. Then we bought gas and hit the highway.
So Hayes is right, it takes ten things, and enough vacation days, to get folks to spend the night. If you’ve got some ideas of things to be included in Northfield’s package, swing into the Historic Society and mention them to Hayes.
Steve Edwins, of the Historic Preservation Commission, and Hayes Scriven, of the Northfield Historical Society, quickly assembled a group of interested parties for a meeting this morning. The topic was the creation of a website, or at least a web presence, of what was referred to as a “Historic Walking Tour Podcast”.
Edwins suggested that the power of New Ulm’s podcast was the linking of historic sites with heritage stories. In addition to bringing history to life, the stories offer another compelling reason to visit the featured community.
He went on to cite other examples of powerful web-based “tour guides”. Grand Marais, Minnesota, Chino Hills, California and Tallinn, Estonia were among those highlighted by Edwins.
The group also explored related topics, including the need for a central and neutral portal with clear and appealing links to other sites, organized by interest areas such as arts and culture, economic development, history, and shopping. During the discussion, all the attendees voiced recognition of the effectiveness of enhancing text with images.
Everyone praised the New Ulm concept and offered their assistance to the Northfield initiative. Hayes is going to convene another, and larger, gathering in the near future, at which experienced potential resource people will present to the participants.
Northfield Historical Society Executive Director Hayes Scriven and his crew set up the information tent in Bridge Square this morning in anticipation of this week’s big cultural festival.
Wednesday, September 3rd, at noon, there’s a Graveside Memorial Service in the Northfield Cemetery (south Division Street, across from the High School) for Joseph Lee Heywood and Nicolaus Gustavson and at 6:30 p.m. there’s the Joseph Lee Heywood Distinguished Service Award Banquet, American Legion Ballroom, Highway 3 North.
Thursday, September 4th, it’s “Townie Night” in the Entertainment Center at 5th and Water Streets and the Carnival on Ames Park at 5th Street and Highway 3 (known historically as Dahomey Avenue), a Tractor Pull on Division Street between 4th and 5th Streets, and a Northfield Historic SocietyReception for Betty Barr, Jesse James’ Great Granddaughter. Jesse Jane’s Jamboree opens at the Northfield Arts Guild Theater on West 3rd Street at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, September 5th, the Entertainment Center, Carnival and Jesse Jane’s Jamboree continue. There’s a P. R. C. A. Professional Rodeo, 8 p.m., in the Jesse James Arena on Highway 3 South and a Square Dance on Division Street between 4th and 5th Streets. Don’t forget Bingo on Bridge Square, from 6 p.m. to Midnight.
Saturday, September 6th, it’s the Jesse James Bike Tour, starting at the Northfield Middle School, registration from 6:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., the Defeat of Jesse James Car Show, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Riverside Park, a Fine Arts & Crafts Festival, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. along the Riverside Commons, a Craft Show in Central Park, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and a Kiddie Parade at 10:00 a.m. starting at 6th and Division Streets.
Sunday, September 7th, it’s the Jesse James 5 and 15 Ks at 8:00 a.m. registration in Bridge Square, the Royalty Reception, 10:00 a.m. at the Northfield High School, and the Grand Parade, 2 p.m. along Division Street.
So, pull on your boots, hitch up your belt, tip your hat low over your eyes, and mosey on down to the Defeat of Jesse James Days, centered in the heart of Northfield, our historic downtown.
As the sun set on the Saturday night of ArtSwirl, the youth of Northfield, with unobscured vision and undiminished energy, picked up the torch from their fading seniors. Hopefully they have listened to the experiences of their elders and are using these concepts, or not, to shape their own strategies for the present and future situations.
At the official closing event of ArtSwirl, Politics and a Pint, there was an effort to take the ideas raised at the NDDC’s Forum further toward refinement and closer to action steps. As the guest presenter, I opened the discussion with what I saw as waves of theories on arts and economic development. At first the studies focused on proving that investment in the arts results in job creation and tax base growth. The next phase argued that the arts attracted much-in-demand high-value workers and economic investors. The most recent wave of articles advocates that the arts foster a culture of innovation – including creativity, problem-solving, and collaborative work patterns – that is essential for the economy of the future.
The dozen or so people who gathered for the discussion cycled back to at least a couple of the points raised at the Forum, the balance between priorities of creating an arts destination or an arts incubator and the appropriate role of the public sector in supporting the arts. Hopefully Bruce Morlan took some notes and will post them on Politics and a Pint.
Then yesterday, the NDDC’s Arts (, Recreation,) and Culture Committee met and worked to develop the many ideas raised in the past week into planks of an Arts and Culture Platform. Topics included Coordination and Communication, Differentiation and Branding, Adding an Arts and Culture Look to Key Websites, Evaluating and Enhancing Northfield’s Competitive Position within the Region, and Potential Public Funding Mechanism for the Arts.
There was a particularly unexpected bright spot at Politics and a Pint. A young, recently married couple visiting Northfield joined the discussion. Currently residing in Uptown Minneapolis, they had visited Stillwater, Red Wing and Northfield, looking for a new community in which to live. Arts and culture were important to them. Northfield won hands down.