Prepare to get Night-ed

Urban Nights takes over downtown Dayton

By Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin

Photo: The Comet Skippers perform at Urban Nights in May; photo: Andrew Thompson

Part festival, part block party, part sparkling nebula shining bright enough to draw crowds from the farthest reaches of the Miami Valley, Urban Nights is downtown Dayton’s bi-annual open house and will crawl over the city next Friday, Sept. 12.

“It’s not like a normal festival you would see in a couple-block radius,” Emily Broughton, Downtown Dayton Partnership’s special events manager, said. “It’s kind of a big monster in that it spreads all over downtown.”

Urban Nights allows downtown the opportunity to show off its thriving arts community, eclectic dining options and unique housing options. Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in collaborative art projects, enjoy live music and explore urban living spaces.

“We hear very often that there’s too much to do, which we do not consider an actual complaint,” Broughton said.

Free parking will be available at the Arts Garage next to the Schuster Center, which will position Urban Nights goers to stop by one of the evening’s hot spots at Westminster Presbyterian Church on First Street, sponsored by DP&L and Sinclair Community College. In the church’s lot, lovingly dubbed the “Splatter Zone,” participants will find the UpDayton-led public art project that will produce giant paintings with the use of paintball guns. The pieces will then be hung around the city by the Dayton Graffiti Task Force.

“They’re going to hang them over where people write graffiti to try and encourage people not to paint graffiti, but to look at art instead,” Broughton said. “And it will be art the community collaborated on to make together.”

Other activities will include a preview of MetroParks’ Midwest Outdoor Experience at Courthouse Square that will feature paddleboarding and slacklining, Over the Edge rapelling at the 27-story Key Bank Tower, Taste of the Miami Valley at RiverScape, basketball with Dayton Circles in Dragons Plaza and live music at the Miami Valley Gaming-sponsored Live on Five in the Oregon District.

“We encourage people to go to our website and download our map and plan out their evening ahead of time so they can see where the hot spots are going to be and figure out where they’re going to park and what their interests are,” Courtney Deutsch, Downtown Dayton Partnership’s sponsor relations and events marketing manager, said, “because you’re not going to be able to do all of it, so figure out ahead of time what you want to do.”

Urban Nights is not only a blast for attendees, but also for the local business owners who keep their shops open special hours to welcome all of the visitors.

“We opened our shop for Urban Nights 2012, so it’s also our anniversary,” said Tracy McElfresh, who, along with Jesy Anderson, owns Sew Dayton, a sewing shop located on Wayne Avenue next to the specialty coffee bar Press. “We absolutely love being downtown, and Urban Nights is a great opportunity to show the public the retail and community side of a great community that is growing. Most of the shop owners are young-female owned, which makes us feel safe, and it’s safe to bring your families down too. Plus, we love a little girl power, too.”

“Urban Nights is a way businesses are able to connect with new and returning customers for a night of fun and entertainment,” Anderson said. “We enjoy Urban Nights and all the new faces we are able to meet. As a retail shop, we are not as busy as restaurants and bars, however we always try to bring family-friendly vendors to our shop or host an event that is great for all ages!”

“Urban Nights gives downtown a chance to showcase to suburban folks why they should come down and spend some money to support local businesses,” said Andy Rowe, assistant general manager at Blind Bob’s in the Oregon District, where guests will receive 20 percent off of signature items, such as hula hoops and bourbon-dipped fried pickles. “A healthy downtown is vital not just to downtown, but to the surrounding communities.”

And that’s what Urban Nights is meant to encourage – a healthy, thriving downtown that benefits its citizens and the area as a whole.

“The initial idea behind Urban Nights was to make it an event that would be an economic driver for our downtown businesses,” Deutsch said. “So, yes, it’s fun, people come down here and it’s a big party and open house, but really Urban Nights is an economic driver for our businesses. Over 100 businesses participate, and many of them will report it’s the biggest night of the year for them.”

“We hope to see more people viewing downtown as a place to visit, a place to live, a place to do business,” said Deutsch. “Maybe eventually it brings new businesses down here or people that would consider downtown that otherwise wouldn’t have thought of it.”

Urban Nights will take place rain or shine Friday, Sept. 12 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. in downtown Dayton. Free parking will be available in the Oregon District, at all meters after 6 p.m., and in the Arts Garage, located across from the Schuster Center on Ludlow Street. For more information and to plan your evening, please visit or For the app-savvy, download Find It Downtown Mobile by visiting with your smartphone.

Reach DCP freelance writer Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin at To read more from Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin, visit her website at

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About Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin

View all posts by Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin
Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin is a writer and amateur cartographer living in Dayton, Ohio. She has been a member of PUSH (Professionals United for Sexual Health) since 2012 and is currently serving as Chair. She can be reached at or through her website at

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