As with everything else I can think of, Final Friday's have been a bit different the last couple of years. In 2020, for the first time in more than a decade, the Brickyard sat empty. Of course, it wasn't just the Brickyard, it was everywhere. After working for almost 2 decades on downtown development, seeing an empty downtown day after day was a nightmare.
We didn't know what 2021 would bring with it. Would downtown be able to host any events? Would businesses come back? Would customers and the community come back? We talked to business owners, community leaders, and residents and we knew one thing for sure.. the connection that Mansfield has to its downtown is special and the bond that has been developed over the last 30 years to our community can't be taken away, even in a pandemic.
Up until just a couple of weeks before the start of this year's season, we still weren't sure if we would be able to have concerts. If you can remember, the ambiguity of that time was thick. We closely followed CDC recommendations and state mandates and took the precautions needed to be able to host a show.
Then it rained. After what we had been through in 2020 and talking to downtown business owners, we just couldn't cancel. We could move acts around, shorten time frames, etc, but we just couldn't cancel. I remember seeing Andy from Two Cousins carrying pizzas back to his shop with a bright smile on his face. We talked for a moment about how great it was to have people downtown again and he thanked us for not canceling, adding that people needed events to come back. He was so right!
If you know us, you know we aren't fair weather event planners. We have a combined total of over 50 years of event planning experience and nerves of steel when it comes to weather. It's a good thing, too, because for the June show... it also rained.
People still attended the events, under umbrellas, ducking in and out of alleys and local businesses. Our mantra was, "at least it's better than 2020!" Certainly, with the rain, they weren't the crowds we had hoped for, but the truth was that we were really happy to provide some music, food trucks, and entertainment for the community, regardless.
Then we had the July show. It was all the things we had hoped for and we were so excited to be able to share all of that joy with the community. Our eventual coming together to celebrate all things Mansfield, Downtown, & Community! Right along with you, we saw friends and neighbors we hadn't seen since 2019 and the community rebirth once again was alive right in front of us! So many people told us how happy they were to be back downtown, in the Brickyard, together.
Final Fridays mean something to this community that it's hard to encompass in a phrase. In the years that we've hosted these events, we've seen them grow, not just in number, but in impact. There's connectivity that takes place when people gather from across demographics that doesn't happen at ticketed events or curated festivals. We've talked to countless business owners and property owners who want to be downtown because of the Brickyard, because of Final Friday. Now we see that impact reverberating all over downtown, which was the goal from the beginning, of course. Not just that we would grow businesses and development in the Brickyard block, but that we could use that to drive interest, attention, and investment throughout downtown and the community. Final Fridays aren't just an event, it's a spirit of renewal. It's the gritty we're-doing-this-one-way-or-another spirit that is naturally Mansfield, Ohio.
If you've not been to a show yet this year, we have an extraordinary one to round off the season Friday, September 24th. Stop down and see us. If you can't make it, no worries.. we'll be back in 2022, you can count on it!