Thursday, May 30, 2013

Round-Up: Finding Inspiration in Downtown Contests

The winning entry of Design Downtown
Harrisonburg, VA
Contests are a great way to drum up some excitement about your downtown. Some communities use these events to drive downtown visitation, others as fundraisers, and still others as a way to encourage downtown entrepreneurship. Below is a roundup of some fun downtown contests that might serve as inspiration for your district.

  • Design Downtown Contest by Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, Harrisonburg, VA. This contest is a great way to engage local artists that also doubles as a fundraiser. Local artists and university students are invited submit an artistic design that celebrates "the positive growth and changes" of the historic district.  Last year's winner and runner up were both posters that are now available for purchase at for $10 or $5. Winners participate in a special downtown exhibit and have their designs reproduced on downtown merchandise, including t-shirts, posters and travel coffee mugs. 
  • Light Up Downtown Holiday Contest, sponsored by the City of San Antonio, Texas. This event encourages holiday lights that drive pedestrian traffic to downtown and help businesses increase sales during the holiday season. Participating businesses compete to have the "Best and Brightest Holiday Light Display." There are four winning categories, "Best Storefront", "Best Building", "Best Non-Profit", "Best Use of Space" and a "Greenest Energy" award. Voting is open to the public via on-line voting.
  • Calling All Dreamers Business Plan Competition, sponsored by the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, Sacramento, CA. Entrepreneurs vie for a prize with a value of $135k. This contest highlights retail attraction efforts, and helps build buzz in the entrepreneur community that downtown is a great business destination. Winners receive  free rent for a downtown location, startup capital and business support services.
  • Downtown Albany Blues Music Contest, sponsored by the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District. This event drives helps establish downtown as a music destination and drives downtown visitation. Blues bands competed for the prize of playing at one of the City of Albany's "Alive at Five" outdoor concerts over the summer.Downtown in Focus, sponsored by the Downtown Dayton Partnership, the City of Dayton and the Dayton Daily News, Dayton, OH. One of the problems I often have when working with clients and creating marketing material for their retail attraction efforts is the lack of good professional photos. I like this contest because it is a great way to showcase downtown, while building an archive of interesting photos for use in both print and digital media. The contest has both an amateur and a professional division. Winners receive $250 cash prices and a gift basket of commemorative items. All entries are displayed in an exhibit hosted in the lobby of a downtown building. 

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