Old Town’s events offer a unique side of Greater Lansing

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When you think about Lansing, you think about the Michigan State Capitol, Michigan State University, St. Mary Cathedral, and the Porter Park Zoo. However there is not much talk when it comes to people talking about Old Town, as many people have yet to visit this unique and vibrant area that provides its residents with something new every month consistently for so many years.

From the Chocolate Walk, Taste and Tour, Chalk of the Town, and ScrapFest, Old Town provide its residents and visitors with a new event or activity every month to make it unlike anywhere else throughout Lansing.

These events really appeal to families and young professionals throughout Old Town as many events are successful, however the success does not all just come from community participation. It also comes from the relationships that are being built between businesses that are very significant, according to Sarah Wood, an employee at Bloom Coffee Roasters.

“Often these events will bring in first-time customers and then those people will continue to return a lot more,” said Wood. “It helps build communication both with business owners and the community around it, which I believe is really important.”

Most of these events are family-oriented, so there is a certain limit of what you can do to make it for everyone. However if some of events were not family-oriented you could bring in a much younger crowd to these events, according to Wood.

“Being very close to a popular college town and so close to a community college, there are a lot of young people in the area that you would be able to connect to and have frequent customers at these events,” said Wood. “Maybe switch it up every once in a while, so not every event has the same people coming in.”

Sarah Christiansen, owner of Katalyst Gallery and Gift Boutique along with being an at-larger Old Town Commercial Association board member, discussed how the events she has participated in has impacted her and the overall community in Old Town. Along with how much time and effort goes into making these events so successful and where the profits go.

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Katalyst Gallery hosts numerous events such as the upcoming event Taste and Tour, which is a favorite to owner Sarah Christiansen. Photo by Joshua Chung

Before these events are hosted, there are a lot of hours from different people put into these events that allows it to be so successful, according to Christiansen.

“If you break it down from the Old Town Commercial Association standpoint, Vanessa and Heather do a lot of work, posters need to be designed and distributed, and there are a lot of different components to each event,” said Christiansen. “So there are a lot of man hours that are being accounted for in different ways.”

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Vanessa Shafer, Heather Mossing, and all the OTCA board members put a lot of time and effort to help make these events successfully as possible for everyone. Photo by Joshua Chung

All of the profits from these events go back into Old Town for things such as trash bags, flowers, light poll maintenance, and trash can maintenance. All of the money that is made goes back into this area and back to the community, according to Christiansen.

Mark Wilson, professor at Michigan State University and an expert in event planning, says events like these provide many benefits to the community and certain events will allow it to succeed in the future.

“There are many benefits to a community, including building a community with a community identity, adding vitality to urban or neighborhood life, and promoting the area and its businesses,” said Wilson. “Along with adding extra revenue associated with the event itself.”

Some events are designed to attract locals and visitors to promote the local economy and tourism. There can be other events that focus on residents alone to build social capital and community, according to Wilson.

“The success of either would depend, in part, on the theme and the interest of residents and visitors,” said Wilson. “It is important to choose a theme and type of event that meets the goals of the event.”

Wilson discussed that generally profits from the event organizers are happy to break even and often depend on donations to cover a lot of the costs. Local businesses that might benefit are also often donors to the event too.

Professor Kimberly Mahoney from the University of New Haven and an expert in event managing discussed that it usually varies dramatically of where all the profits go. It tends to be tied directly to who is usually organizing the event.

“Depending on what the event it is, these profits usually go towards a certain cause or charity,” said Mahoney. “It may go to the event organizers to be used for planning future events.”

In some cases they may even not be any profits after expenses, but they benefit in another way such as exposure for local businesses, making the community a destination for others, and a possible source of revenue for the event organizer, according to Mahoney.

Maggie Vance, a staff member at Retail Therapy says that the one thing she would suggest for these events is providing more advertisement to spread the word out for everyone.

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Some of Old Town’s upcoming events. Screenshot courtesy from Old Town official website.

“Just by working here I know stuff that is going on, but when I go and tell my friends or people around town they have no idea that these events are even happening,” said Vance. “Whether it be through more Facebook postings or more use of social media, I feel that the people who read on these events are the same type of people, so reaching a broader community would be one thing I would suggest.”

David Coleman, a local attorney who often visits Old Town for lunch or coffee, says all the events have done a very good job for the business community and bringing people to the area as a destination.

“No matter what kind of event it is, they get thousands of people attending them,” said Coleman. “There would be really no other reason to come to Old Town unless it was there neighborhood if not for these events that are so successful. I think that they have done a very good job of promoting Old Town as a business neighborhood community.”

Darryl Svochak, another local attorney discussed how much these events have changed and impacted the businesses around the area and how Old Town is what it is today.

“It’s a place that people go and like to attend these kind of things,” said Svochak. “There are a lot of artsy type of shops throughout the town and a lot of them would not exist or be successful if not for these events. These events and activities in the end really have been great for this area.”

There will be a unique event called Taste and Tour, where it allows participants to sample delicious foods from participating Old Town restaurants and food retailers, while getting the change to tour the real estate that Old Town has to offer, according to Christiansen

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Taste and Tour is just one of the many successful events each year that is held in Old Town. Screenshot courtesy of the Old Town Facebook page

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