Hundreds of hearty souls braved foul weather Thursday night for the year’s final Down on Main concert in Fairpark, next to Tupelo City Hall.
The umbrellas and rain gear didn’t keep everybody dry – the downpour between the performances of Charlie Mars and Paul Thorn was torrential – but the large crowd willing to withstand the elements offered compelling testimony to the drawing power of such downtown events.
It was the third concert in the free series, and plans are to come back with more next summer – perhaps increasing in number and frequency. Other kinds of events are in the planning stages as well.
It’s all because of the coordinating energy of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association and the city’s Quality of Life Committee, as well as funding from corporate sponsors.
This experiment has been good for Tupelo and its budding downtown renewal. Given the newness of it all, and the failure of the weather to cooperate two of the three concert evenings, the turnouts easily exceeded expectations.
But there was more to the success than the size of the crowds. These were true community-building and quality-of-life enhancing events.
They offered an opportunity for people not only to hear good music, but to gather together, meet and mingle with friends and strangers, and to enjoy the sense of community that the new downtown milieu is uniquely equipped to encourage. There was a real sense at the Down on Main concerts of a vibrant urban environment, an active and engaging city center with something to offer a wide and diverse range of people.
Tupelo has long been known as a wonderful place to live and raise a family. But its future economic success will depend in part on its ability to broaden and enlarge its appeal for a generation that appreciates Tupelo’s core qualities but expects more choices and more amenities than the city has provided in the past. All cities face the same challenge to demonstrate that they can meet those expectations.
This is what Mayor Jack Reed Jr. called the “cool city” concept when he was chairman of the Community Development Foundation and is encouraging as the city’s new chief executive. It’s part of what will both lure newcomers and help Tupelo hold on to some of its native sons and daughters who might instead choose another home.
There’s no single formula to meet that challenge, but Tupelo is on the right track in engaging its people to figure out the ways. Ultimately, it will mean a livelier, more vibrant, more varied community for everyone – and a whole new dimension to the “Tupelo Spirit.”
NEMS Daily Journal