by Paul Shea
Great American Downtown recently hosted our Annual Public Meeting at City Hall, connecting with viewers at home and about 50 attendees about our growth and plans for further development of programming in 2017. Over the past two years, the staff, board of directors, and volunteers at Great American Downtown have worked tirelessly and to grow our programing – to further our mission of vibrancy in Downtown Nashua. Together, we have initiated the Nashua Street Pianos Program, grown the Nashua Farmers Market from 6 to over 30 vendors with market days now on both Wednesday and Sunday, managed an effort to return a robust holiday lighting display in our Downtown, initiated the massive annual Nashua Pride Downtown Parks Cleanup Day, taken on the management of the Gate City Community Gardens program, and produced a variety of small events like the Chocolate Stroll and Downtown Scarecrow Competition.
We’ve looked to the community for feedback as we set the course for continued growth. In a recent survey conducted by Great American Downtown the top priority among key stakeholders in the City of Nashua, by a significant margin, is the growth of both indoor and outdoor music programming. In 2016, with the support of the City of Nashua, we conducted a pilot music festival program to gauge community response, which was tremendous. Given this success and the community feedback, we have been working toward and will be announcing a three festival series for 2017 in the coming weeks.
To keep up with this pace of growth, we have created two new roles with the organization. Great American Downtown is excited to announce that we have added two individuals to our growing team who are passionate about improving the quality of life here for residents and visitors alike. Joining us are Carolyn Walley, as our Marketing Coordinator, and Ben Ruddock as Arts Coordinator.
Carolyn Walley, is a student of the UNH Business School, Stay Work Play blogger, and has worked with Great American Downtown over the course of the fall through the University’s internship program. As Marketing Coordinator, Walley will be responsible for developing, coordinating and implementing an ongoing multifaceted downtown wide marketing campaign. In this position, Walley will work to cultivate and inspire the reputation of Downtown Nashua as a welcoming and vibrant destination for dining, shopping, services, culture, arts, recreation, and lifestyle. At Great American Downtown, we recognize the depth of offerings brought to the community by a strong fabric of business, cultural and arts organizations. Walley will manage communicating all that Downtown Nashua has to offer through producing our e-newsletter, “The Downtowner”, which now boasts over 4,500 subscribers. She will also manage our newly launched website, and Downtown Central Community Calendar, a long sought after resource among community members which will aggregate content from over 60 non-profit organizational calendars, a variety of live music venues, city and civic groups, and others.
Ben Ruddock, is an owner of the Riverwalk Cafe and Music Bar and the manager of their music programming. Ruddock played a significant role as a volunteer in putting on a quality production this past fall, through the two day pilot music festival. He also had a hand in improving the production value of the Winter Holiday Stroll, an event that attracts over 30,000 people to Downtown Nashua each November. As Arts Coordinator, he will be responsible for developing, coordinating and implementing downtown wide performing arts and cultural programs and special events with vision, integrity and expertise. The core mission of this new position is to foster the arts and the creative economy, as an engine to drive economic and cultural vibrancy, and further Downtown Nashua’s reputation as a destination to create, exhibit, and consume the arts.
We have enjoyed a boom in the live music and performance scene in recent years, with venues like Fody’s Tavern, Dolly Shakers, Riverside Barbeque, the Thirsty Turtle, Peddler’s Daughter, Fratello’s Italian Grille, Stella Blu, Agave Azul, and most notably Riverwalk Café – hosting a wide variety of quality live performances throughout the week. We look forward to contributing to this growing facet of city life in bringing more outdoor performances via the 2017 music festival series.
Downtown Nashua also boasts a wealth of community theater groups, which put on over 40 weekends worth of musical and straight theater production throughout the year – collectively between the Peacock Players, Actorsingers, Nashua Theatre Guild, Genesys Theatre and other groups. Great American Downtown is also excited to share that we will join this prolific field, with the production of a two person piece of musical theater, with an announcement anticipated in July 2017. In addition, we will look to grow the Nashua Street Pianos Program to feature a total of three painted and publicly accessible pianos out on Main Street from May-October.
At Great American Downtown, we understand the value of the creative economy – as do the people of Nashua, and we are grateful for the opportunity to do our part in fostering its growth. In partnership with the Mayor’s Economic Development Division, we have begun to look at what it would take to bring about a mid size venue in the heart of the city. This is taking place in parallel with a discussion about bringing a larger facility to Downtown, being lead by Performing Arts Center feasibility contractor Webb Management Services, with this study coming into its last phase in the next few weeks. We look forward to building a vision with the City of Nashua to develop a sustainable plan to convert the City of Nashua’s old Central Fire Station into a 300+ person music hall. The concept and community conversation is in its early stages, but we hope to be able to share more as things develop in the coming months.
We’re looking forward to the incredible year ahead, and hope you have the opportunity to join us to take in all that Downtown Nashua has to offer!