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Let's get together more often 'after dark'

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Area leaders still wondering if there’s an appetite in the metro for night time activities need look no further than the continued interest in and success of Market After Dark.

Without knowing what to expect, the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance planned the community’s first Market After Dark last year as a 10-year anniversary celebration of the popular Saturday morning events held in downtown throughout the summer. Nearly 10,000 people expressed interest through a social media post about the event, but more than three times that number came. It was a figure that solidly eclipsed the 15,000 average attendance at morning markets.

Nearly two hours before the event was scheduled to start, people already flooded the streets. Most vendors quickly sold out, and crowds swelled well beyond what was comfortable in the designated seven-block area.

Lessons were learned, changes were made for this year’s event. Partnerships were made with many downtown businesses (disclosure: The Gazette was a presenting sponsor; Hoopla, was a main stage sponsor). Key agreements were made with 10 bars and restaurants within the expanded 19-block area, which sold wine and beer in specially marked cups to patrons who had already undergone age verification at one of nine event entrances. Five beverage tents, and six entertainment areas helped keep lines short and manageable.

Perhaps spurred into action by last year’s barricade-busting crowds, more than 100 vendors peddled their wares on city streets, and other downtown businesses expanded their hours.

Newly renovated Greene Park became a temporary home to various giant lawn games, enjoyed by young and old.

Additional safety measures were instituted as well — more police on the street, pets kept at home, improved street lighting and flat-rate parking fees that didn’t expire until the following day.

The end result was an enjoyable evening downtown that hopefully residents’ discovery of new businesses, bars and restaurants to patronize year-round.

Last summer the community’s appetite for this type of event was apparent. This summer, the Economic Alliance and hundreds of volunteers proved it can be successful.

When can we get together after dark again?

• Gazette editorials reflect the consensus opinion of The Gazette Editorial Board. Share your comments and ideas with us: (319) 398-8469; editorial@thegazette.com

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