Sponsor Spotlight. It really is all about the Community.

When I first started at JAX Chamber, one of the things I really wanted to approach was an inclusive, community-gathering event Downtown. Something on a consistent day of the month (sound familiar?) that focused on our best asset, the St. Johns River, and our unmatched and uber-accessible urban waterfront, the Northbank Riverwalk. Riverside Arts Market is a clear quality of life winner at the cap end of the Riverwalk but I think we need to have it relate better to Downtown and have access to RAM be primarily via the Riverwalk if possible.

But lets back up a bit. Almost 9 years ago as a consultant to Downtown Vision I helped create a little (then) event we called First Wednesday Art Walk. Having Art Walk mid week was due to many factors but the main ones were that we mostly only had people Downtown during the week because of work and MOCA (then JMOMA) wasn’t open on Thursday at the time. Friday and Saturday were totally out because at that time Downtown couldn’t compete with other weekend activities. Our idea was to get the Downtown worker to stay a while and linger Downtown. Our city has always had a deep pool of culture but we are so spread out, unless you were really tuned in, you might not know it. Times have changed. Art Walk has grown from the eight venues we started with to more than 40 and up to 50 for some events. It probably doesn’t have to be on a Wednesday night any more, but it should be, as it makes for a great Wednesday for Downtown restaurants, bars, galleries, and shops. 

Community First Saturdays, which kicks off Saturday October 6, is another opportunity to see the best of Downtown Jacksonville, to gather on our beautiful river, and to take excursions specifically designed to showcase the heart of what HGTV calls the Ultimate Coastal Paradise. Saturdays are great because you’ve already got an excellent end cap in the Riverside Arts Market. You can bring the kids (which is tough on a school night with Art Walk). And the kids are in for a real thrill. The very first Community First Saturdays will combine a lot of kids activities with a special spotlight on Art in the Park. And I’m super excited to announce that JTA will offer the Skyway(PDF) every Community First Saturday, providing the Skyway’s biggest fans (KIDS) a way to soar through Downtown on their way to our awesome library, museums, and parks.

In the coming days you’ll hear much more about our activities, almost all which are free. We’ve got so much to take part in. And just like the Art Walk (only on an accelerated pace!) activities and events all over Downtown are adding to the sizzle and the crowds, making Downtown the place to be and the Riverwalk, the center of it all!

To conclude, I want to be clear about one thing. These ideas, activities, and amazing tie ins would not be possible without the support of our title sponsor Community First Credit Union. Full disclosure, Community First is my family’s Credit Union. I became a member after participating in their sponsored 7k with the Health Planning Council. When we pitched the idea of a community-gathering, quality of life event on the St. Johns River, they not only got behind us, they committed for several years! This support has allowed many great assets and activities to fall into place. I can’t say enough about these guys, but I’ll try anyway. Viva Community First!

Stay tuned for more sponsor spotlights and updates on activities in the coming days. If you make out to the Riverwalk on October 6, I can promise you’ll be impressed and proud of your Downtown!

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