Duluth events roll out red carpet service for residents, visitors
By Carole Townsend
The City of Duluth loves a good party, great festivals, and outstanding concerts. In fact, Duluth loves to host and sponsor events with open arms, inviting any and all who wish to join in the festivities.
Why? Well, it’s not really because city leaders love to party (though that’s part of it); these events are just good business. Since 2013, Duluth hosted a remarkable 100+ events annually attracting more than 250,000 people a year. As a result, a boast in Duluth’s overall appeal to the masses and economic development.
When city events coordinator Maggie Waddell came on board in 2013, Duluth hosted about 12 events per year. That wasn’t bad, but city leaders wanted something more. They wanted Waddell to generate some buzz, excitement and bring consistency to the city’s events calendar. That was a tall order, because bringing more events to Duluth meant developing more sites for those events. And as any marketing pro knows, consistency with those events is key.
Patrons want to know what is happening in Duluth, and we wanted to create an event that was easy for people to remember and fun for them to enjoy. For example, they don’t have to find a city calendar to see what, if anything, is going on. In Duluth, people can count on Food Truck Fridays occurring every Friday from 6 pm – 9 pm, May through October. The event features live music on the Festival Center Stage, different varieties of Food Trucks each week and a movie every first and third Friday of the month. “We look forward to Food Truck Friday around here like we used to look forward to Sunday dinner when I was a kid,” laughed Robert Villarti, who moved to Duluth in 2014 with his wife and two young children.
Why does consistency matter so much? “A typical consumer will only notice an advertisement after seeing it eight times and will be more likely to interact with the advertisement after seeing it fifteen times. The same concept applied to events. The thought behind bringing consistency to our city events is that people will begin to learn to come to Duluth every Friday between 6 and 9 pm for Food Truck Friday, or every second Saturday of the month for our Summer Stage Concert because they know something fun will be happening. The best part about hosting Food Truck Friday every week is that it is every week. Once people have come to our city they can see our progress and what we have to offer them” Waddell said. And knowing that gives patrons a sense of home.
“Our team here at the city is amazing,” said Waddell. “We challenge each other, and we keep each other on our toes to be better employees and advocates for the City of Duluth, and it seems to be working.” The marketing team in Duluth consists of 3 people, another astounding number, considering the beehive of activity that characterizes the city. “Alisa Williams and Amanda Leiba are the driving forces behind our marketing efforts. They work magic when it comes to the different avenues of marketing for the city,” said Waddell. Duluth has also partnered with local area schools to cultivate high school and college-age students as interns. The marketing team teaches the students about marketing and event planning, and by the time their internship is over, the students work right alongside staff members to pull off the city’s events.
The entire team works together to bring such attractive events – concerts, festivals, movies and more. According to community surveys, an overwhelming number of our event attendees are from the Atlanta Metro area which means city-dwellers leave their home turf to see just what Duluth has going on. And they keep coming back. “I was tasked back in 2013 with making our Town Green the hub for our events, and to have Duluth known for its extraordinary events,” Waddell said. “It’s important to have an element of surprise with every event we do, to keep people coming back for more. I’m constantly trying to see how I can outdo an event that we just had, from life sized animatronic dinosaurs, aerialist, fire dancers to stilt walking pirates. The city has supported me and my crazy idea’s every time.”
Just a few of the events for which Duluth has come to be known for are July 3rd Duluth Celebrates America, Food Truck Friday, Summer Stage Concerts, Fall Festival, Howl on the Green and New Year’s Eve. Since 2014, the City of Duluth has won 8 Kaleidoscope awards from the Southeastern Festival and Events Association for outstanding events.
To go further, a discussion of events and venues that make Duluth an exciting destination wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Eddie Owen, a devoted supporter of the arts in the city. Eddie Owen Presents the Red Clay Music Foundry is a powerful force behind the concert scene in Duluth. Owen, known to many as the man behind Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, brings in music talent from all over the country. Music lovers of all generations and tastes will find something they like at Eddie Owen Presents the Red Clay Music Foundry.
The city events cater to over 250,000 attendees per year, featuring art, culinary attractions and festivals that now characterize Duluth. This is the result of years of planning. The city’s Economic Development Department has pushed the growth of the historic downtown area and helped make this small town even more attractive to patrons and businesses.
Chris McGahee and Will Corbin have been key components of these projects like Parsons Alley, which recently welcomed Dreamland BBQ, and has also been key in the growth of the city’s expanding event venues. Also the Economic Development Department is working to create more housing options in the downtown area while providing easy access to downtown amenities.
Proctor Square demolition is in full swing on a $64 million redevelopment project. Named The Village in Duluth, the 8-acre development will feature residential units over restaurants and retail. City leaders expect this newest development to be a crown jewel of the already vibrant and beautiful city.
For a complete list of Duluth’s events and festivals, as well as other important city information, visit www.duluthga.net.