Smiling on the Square

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Revamped Courthouse Square a ‘God-send’

By Lisa Bennett

Photo: Residents and guests gather at Courthouse Square to take advantage of the food trucks and summer activities available

Would you rappel off the side of a 27-story building? Well, Friday, Aug. 14, that’s exactly what some participants of “The Square is Where Goes Over the Edge” Big Brothers Big Sisters party are going to do.

The event is just one of many scheduled for the Summer in the City Series, and the events aren’t the only activities happening on Courthouse Square. All summer long, daily activities such as giant patio games, mini golf, food truck rallies and live entertainment are held. So if watching death-defying acts is a little too stressful for you, perhaps a game of checkers might be more tantalizing—giant checkers that is. (There really is something about a game of giant checkers that brings out the kid in you.)

Maybe that’s why a few business-attire-clad folks were laughing so hard as they enjoyed the game, or maybe they were just thrilled to see a few rays of sunshine peeking through an otherwise dismal sky. Whatever their reasons, laughter, smiles and hugs seem to be the order of the day for most of the folks at Courthouse Square in downtown Dayton. After all, how grumpy can one be with some fresh air and a healthy game of cornhole on their lunch break?

That lighthearted, fun atmosphere is part of what the Downtown Dayton Partnership and Montgomery County hope to accomplish.

“We want people to have fun and enjoy themselves” says Val Beerbower, public relations and communications manager for the Downtown Dayton Partnership. If the feedback of the lunchtime crowd is any indication of their success, the Downtown Dayton Partnership is definitely exceeding its goals.

As one 5-year-old Jakaia Jones chimed as she hopped up and down, “This is a really, really, really happy place.” Her mom, Tanisha agrees: “It’s so nice to be able to have somewhere fun to take my kids that isn’t going to break the bank. This is a God-send for us single moms.”

But single moms and area employees aren’t the only ones enjoying the daily festivities. Courthouse Square is often replete with young and old alike.

“I come to see the entertainers. They make me smile,” Edward R. Mercer, 72, says. “Besides, I like the food. Then I don’t have to cook.”

One of the most beloved Courthouse Square activities is the Dayton Holiday Festival. Running annually since 1972, the Holiday Festival has become a city tradition in Dayton. The brainchild of Mrs. Virginia Kettering, the Dayton Holiday Festival remains a way for children from all economic backgrounds to enjoy the holidays. Festivities include a children’s parade, pizza with Santa, the Tike’s Shoppe and a tree-lighting ceremony. This year’s festival will be held Nov. 27, and planners are already asking for Christmas trees.

The varied programs and amenities are a huge draw for many of the visitors to the square. In fact, planners are already hard at work looking for new events and activities to offer for next year. One dream of the partnership for the 2016 summer season is to partner with the Second Street Market, so people working near the square or just enjoying the festivities downtown can enjoy some wonderful, farm-fresh produce. According to Val Beerbower, “Programming for the Courthouse Square was one of the original calls for the greater downtown Dayton plan.”

The hope is that strengthening the downtown community will revitalize other areas. Already, entertainers are certainly enjoying some of that prosperity. There is always a demand for entertainers who are available to perform on weekdays, in addition to folks with new programs, ideas and activities.

Courthouse Square is evolving, and the effects are palpable. From smiling and dancing kids to rejuvenated employees returning to work after a lunch break to new opportunities for economic growth, the square holds within it all of the dreams for a city rich with potential.

The square is public. Anyone is welcome to use it. Whether you’re young or old, looking to play a game or perform for a crowd or just searching for a shaded spot to enjoy a good book and cool drink, a trip to the heart of Dayton is all you need.

Courthouse Square is located near 10 W. Second St. in Downtown Dayton. For a calendar and more information on the Summer in the City series, please visit downtowndayton.org. 

 

Reach DCP freelance writer Lisa Bennett at LisaBennett@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Lisa Bennett at LisaBennett@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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