Jim Ripley: My, oh my, downtown Mesa is going to have quite a party on Oct. 9 when its downtown Oktoberfest features five beer gardens and best legs and best cleavage contests.
When I walked in, the meeting was well under way and Cameron Selogie was giving an update on plans for Oktoberfest in Mesa on Oct. 9.
There will be five beer gardens as well as the best legs and best cleavage contests, he said. "Don't forget lederhosen," someone chimed in. I didn't catch who made the lederhosen remark or whether they were serious. My mind was absorbing the idea of beer gardens and best cleavage and legs contests in downtown Mesa. I didn't blush, but this is my first time for using "cleavage" in a column.
Selogie was one of 16 downtown business people who met last Tuesday in Selogie's restaurant at 270 W. Main St. (The restaurant boasts a wine and microbrewery bar.) The 16 are among the business owners who have been organizing a series of events called Second Fridays. The events occur the second Friday night of each month and are designed to bring people downtown.
They are blazing a trail with the Oktoberfest event and they know it.
"We're changing the image of downtown," Suzanne Woodford, meeting chairwoman and owner of OneOhOne Gallery at 101 W. Main St., told the group.
Mayor Scott Smith knows it, too. In an east Mesa town hall a few days earlier, Smith included the Oktoberfest event in his comments about good stuff happening in downtown Mesa.
"What do they drink at Oktoberfest?" the mayor playfully asked.
When the obvious answer came back at him, he replied that he wouldn't know about that, in an apparent reference to his Mormon faith. But there was no disapproval in his tone. The mayor knows that events create energy and energy draws people and people are what downtown needs to flourish.
Speaking of energy, I called Selogie back to fact check this column. It turns out the best legs contest will be for men in lederhosen. But the cleavage contest is the real thing.
In all, Selogie expects to have 18 events, including beer stein races and a polka line that stretches from Country Club Drive to Center Street and back. Enter enough of these events and you'll qualify for raffle prizes.
My, oh my, downtown Mesa is going to have quite a party on Oct. 9.
While the Oktoberfest sounds like its most ambitious undertaking, the Second Friday group shared updates and made plans for other upcoming events. First in the upcoming category is this Friday night's Motorcycles on Main.
Bikers are invited to show off their motorcycles. There will be live music at a number of spots along Main Street, $1 root beer floats and roller racing contests at OneOhOne Gallery, and a new art gallery at 48 W. Main St. will hold its grand opening. It's called SunDust gallery, and I wish it well, since art will play an important role in revitalizing downtown.
But wait, there's more. The Mesa Arts Center is kicking off its fall season with an evening of free entertainment inside and out beginning at 6 p.m. Hey, look for me on Main Street this Friday night.
Earlier this summer, I did two columns that looked at the transformation of a section of Columbus, Ohio, and asked what are the lessons for downtown Mesa.
The Short North district of Columbus had been a slum when I lived there in the 1970s but has since turned into the city's hot spot, loaded with art galleries, fashion boutiques, restaurants and people. One of the Columbusites I interviewed offered this advice to Mesa: "People are drawn to energy." Another told me it is critical that private business take the leading role in creating that energy and that the city lend its support.
Last Tuesday, I watched members of the Mesa downtown business community working to create the energy and recalled words of support from the mayor. If the formula doesn't work, it won't be for a lack of trying in Mesa.
Jim Ripley is former executive editorof the Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.