Today I got an email from someone who disagreed with the contention that nothing was happening in downtown Salem last Wednesday, December 3.
The nothing was happening notion came from a letter to the editor in the Statesman Journal that I talked about in yesterday's "Who killed Salem's First Wednesday? Clueless city officials" post. The letter started off with:
Every year we look forward to First Wednesday in December. All the brightly lit and crowded stores, carolers in Dickensian costumes, food offerings and treats; everything for the holidays!
We went downtown on the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 3, and there was nothing. Zip, zilch, nada, nothing.
I agree with the emailer that this was incorrect.
An artist neighbor of ours had a red-themed piece in an exhibit. My wife met up with some friends to tour the Something Red displays in many downtown businesses. I had to go to a 6:30 pm meeting after my Tai Chi class ended at 6, but I had time to absorb the Court Street atmosphere while chatting with a fellow student outside on the sidewalk, and I briefly visited a gallery before heading off to the meeting.
So, yes, Something Red 2014 brought some added vitality to downtown last Wednesday. Kudos to Artists in Action for that.
But I can understand why the letter writer said what she did. Many people like her have gotten used to the First Wednesday events. December 3 was the first Wednesday of the month, yet Something Red 2014 wasn't a First Wednesday event.
Further, having stood on the Court Street sidewalk for 15 minutes or so around 6 pm, right in the middle of the 5-7 pm art walk, I can say that there wasn't much outward evidence of Something Red 2014. Meaning, you had to know about it beforehand to know it was happening.
There were more people than usual walking around downtown. However, more people doesn't mean a lot. When First Wednesday was in its prime, a promotional event was pretty darn obvious. Can't remember exactly what the signs were; seem to recall actual signs, though.
Before writing my blog post about the letter to the editor I checked to see if Something Red 2014 was a First Wednesday event. It wasn't, so far as I can tell. So the letter writer asked a good question:
What has happened in a year? Where is the Christmas spirit in downtown Salem? Where is First Wednesday?
She had been looking for First Wednesday and apparently didn't notice Something Red 2014. For me, this illustrates the need for a ongoing downtown organization that takes the lead in publicizing and promoting events in Salem's Historic District and surrounding urban core.
People get confused by the ever-changing currents in downtown. There have been three different downtown organizations in just a few years. Parking rules keep changing. First Wednesday comes and goes.
It's wonderful that groups like Artists in Action are putting on great events like Something Red 2014. I just gave Artists in Action a Facebook "like" so I can keep in touch with what they're doing. Please consider doing the same.
Downtown Salem should be a melting pot of creativity, artistry, energy, vitality, and enthusiasm. And it is. We just need to keep adding fuel to the flames that warm the pot. I hope a representative downtown organization will spring up that can be a stable foundation for that effort.
That organization should keep city officials and special interest groups on the outside looking in.
Let downtown businesses, residents, and regular visitors figure out what is best for the area. Chart a course, then stick to it, adjusting direction as necessary but not capriciously.
Bring back First Wednesday. Keep events like Something Red. Salem's downtown is poised for greatness. It just will take some getting-its-act-together for this to happen.
(Note: Something Red 2014 artwork is on display at downtown businesses for the rest of the month.)