Valentine’s Day was always one of those holidays that made me cringe; dare I say, I hated it growing up. My repulsion was present regardless of whether I was dating someone or not. It seemed so over the top and ridiculous, not to mention exclusionary. As I have gotten older, I have learned to appreciate the extreme silliness of the holiday. But, to be clear, I don’t buy into it having any real meaningful romantic implications. However, I am “all in” on the cheesy cards, big clip art hearts and over the top gestures, as long as they are intended as such. I have grown to enjoy the humor that it can offer and the festivity it adds to our winter doldrums.
I always LOVE a hook that gives us ammunition in our downtown promotion arsenal. (Yes, I realize I’m overlaying weaponry onto this lovely holiday.) And so I am forever inspired by our colleagues that have found ways to weave Valentine’s Day into their downtown programming and do it with that perfect combination of humor and saccharin. We are all very good at putting together a list of 10 things to do on this holiday, complete with shopping, romantic walks, great restaurants and experiences in our downtown. My hat is off to all of you that are incorporating this holiday skillfully, and I wanted to highlight a few examples that caught my attention. Check out these clever placemaking and promotional wins. I personally am planning to R&D some of these in my downtown.
If you happen to be in downtown Lancaster City, PA you could have purchased a love note to your beloved – or your pet – and it would be displayed on a lamppost during February. This project sprinkles over 200 love notes and is a fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Lancaster Penn Square. Proceeds go to support local initiatives.
In downtown Pikeville, KY, they go all out with a “Love Your Downtown!” celebration that promotes frequenting locally owned businesses to keep the $0.68 on the dollar in the community. With the addition of well suited placemaking like a kissing booth for photos and a heart themed alley activation, the district invites you to enjoy Valentine’s experiences in all the local establishments along with a band to close out the evening.
Downtown Seattle has been “warming hearts” (as the media likes to say), with their ice sculptures in public parks for years now. This years’ sculptures took the shape of a heart wing-backed chair. Guests who came downtown on Valentine’s Day, also were given complimentary roses and chocolates. Selfies were plentiful, I have no doubt!
Downtown El Paso does a campaign called “Love Downtown Businesses” where they encourage people to write love letters to their favorite establishments and drop them in three mailboxes around downtown. Every letter written enters the person into a raffle for a downtown staycation. I can imagine that these mailboxes strike up a lot of conversation from visitors and guests.
The Downtown Dayton Partnership offers all of the same suggestions for the day, including where you can Valen-Dine. But they also have created a clever campaign around digital cards that offer a nod to their downtown. A variety of cards are available on their website, highlighting various businesses or other offerings from the district.
The lesson here for me, is that every day of the year can offer a blank canvas for placemaking, digital integration, merchant support, bringing people into our districts, and showing some LOVE to our downtowns. Embrace the cheese and have a Happy Valentine’s Day!