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The Longview Business nonprofit organizes a Harvest Festival as a fall gathering and staff fundraiser.local business

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Organizers hope the fall festival will attract tourists to Commerce Avenue and generate enough income to hire full-time employees and keep people downtown.

A long-running Longview nonprofit called Downtowners will host the Harvest Festival in downtown Longview on Saturday, October 22 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. to educate visitors on why they should visit downtown more often. It is intended to show

The festival was inspired by the event of the same name on the mid-2000s TV show Parks and Recreation, says Lindsey Cope, president of Downtown (whose name is a bit like the sitcom star Leslie Knope). told.

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Events at the festival include free concerts by country singers, truck shows, pie-eating contests, a haunted house for children, and a petting zoo with a pony named Lil Sebastian.

The plan is to not just have fun, but to raise at least $20,000 through sponsorships, hire full-time Downtowners employees, and plan additional events to attract people to the downtown shops, restaurants, and sites. Cope said the annual event will continue to fund employees and also offer potential grants.

Business Talk: Shops on Commerce Avenue offer craft workshops, home décor and clothing

As an employee of the Coulitz Economic Development Council, an independent 501©4, Cope said he has helped draw people and businesses downtown. Every Washington county has a similar organization dedicated to local economic growth and is partially funded by the Washington State Department of Commerce.

Cope has been on the Downtowners’ Commission as an employee of the Cowlitz Economic Development Council for about four years now, and the paid staff’s dedication has paid off, said Brad Whitaker, owner of Realty One Pacific Group. said.

Whittaker said he’s seen downtown grow since he bought the nearly 100-year-old office building in 2018, with annual membership fees of $2,500, previously $50, to downtown’s new highest membership level. I participated.

“A vibrant downtown is very important,” he said.

Whittaker’s real estate firm doesn’t necessarily profit from festival foot traffic like stores do, but people drawn to downtown may end up buying properties nearby and relying on him, he said. added. He is serving people downtown for the “long game,” and other vibrant downtowns like Vancouver and Hood River “generate the energy that makes people want to go.” ‘I’m witnessing that.

Whitaker said downtown growth should be led by full-time, dedicated staff rather than volunteers with limited hours.

Over the past four years, Cope said he’s helped add recurring events like Small Business Saturday to draw customers downtown. Now, at least twice as many regular members attend his monthly downtown meetings.

The group as a whole grew from eight paying members at $25 a year to 50 at $75 a year around 2018, Cope said. Benefits include being added to our website, being featured on local radio ads, and receiving an advertised grand opening or reopening event.

Cope said the mom-and-pop stores that primarily make up downtown are dedicated to the area, not just the business, and help create a sense of place that attracts additional businesses and residents.

“There is something very appealing about having such a vibrant downtown,” he said.