The Year of the Grown-Ups (and Helping Local Businesses) // Alice Dreger

Since MSU’s announcement yesterday that all undergrad classes will be online, I have heard from three different long-time East Lansing friends something along the lines of this: “Maybe this year will be the year of the grown-up downtown? And we have to save local businesses!”

So I have an idea of how to combine these! Let’s put together an organic, decentralized series of fun things to do to bring people downtown that we can do with masks and social-distancing, and encourage people to participate and spend money downtown!

Here are some of the ideas I have:

  • Architectural tours: I have already tapped Dan Bollman to think about having him and his business partner Amanda Harrell-Seyburn do megaphone-based walking tours!
  • Public art tours: I talked to Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg and she has been thinking about how to do a phone-based self-guided tour, but I bet she would also offer a megaphone tour!
  • Morning or midday yoga in Ann Street Plaza: there are places downtown that sell yoga mats and I can think of local folks who would do free yoga guidance! We can spread out and connect emotionally with relative proximity!
  • Drawing classes in Ann Street Plaza: SBS often has great art supplies and we can send people there. I’ll bet we can find a few talented art teachers to guide us through some classes!
  • Pop-up fashion show: We all show off our best masked fashion on the Ann Street Plaza stage, brief appearance each, followed by everybody going to get take out or dine downtown! (I have a dress/mask combo that makes me want to do this….)
  • Masked wedding gown event: Pull out your wedding dress and find someone who fits it, stick a mask on them, and have them join a little parade downtown! If you want, take 3 minutes on stage to tell the funniest story about your wedding, marriage, or divorce. Then go out to dinner (take-out or dine-in) or for a drink still dressed!
  • “Explain one thing”: My son’s “house” (dorm unit) at University of Chicago does “explain one thing” five minute lectures – people explain all sorts of things in five minutes each, often in a deeply humorous fashion. We could do a pop-up event like this with a shared wiped-down) megaphone in Ann Street!
  • Unexpected tours: I could give a “TIF tour” of downtown East Lansing. Someone else might give an “urban biology” tour, or a tour from the point of view of bicyclists or persons with mobility disabilities or whatever. Someone could give a parking garage tour (there’s actually a lot of interesting info about our parking garages, believe it or not). Let’s get to know our downtown like never before!

We would need to keep this going in the colder months, so I’m also thinking of how to do things that are socially distanced but bring people downtown. Here are two ideas I have:

  • Quilt show: Someone (maybe someone Jessy knows) organizes temporary donations of beautiful handmade quilts, installing one per downtown business, and then we give people a list so they can tour (and hopefully go spend money at those businesses)! There’s info provided with each quilt about the maker and the quilt.
  • Wreath-making: We get supplies and someone to donate a bunch of temporary tables, everybody bundles up for the cold, and have someone teach wreath-making, socially distanced downtown!
  • Slowest pub-crawl ever: We get someone to donate a t-shirt for this event that lists participating downtown pubs, you get a shirt, and you commit to having a little something at each of the pubs! (Take-out allowed! Lots of places sell beer and wine to go but there’s also FOOD.)
  • Slowest coffee shop crawl ever: Same! All of East Lansing’s remaining coffee shops!

The City has often tried to do things to get people to come downtown, and many have worked. But right now the staff is busy and we need things that happen fast to save businesses and bring us joy. (The City has also tended to overregulate and overthink downtown help events, imho.)

So, we can do this in a highly decentralized way! Let me know if you are up for organizing one event and I will help you get the word out via ELi and beyond! Let’s start filling up the calendar with The Year of the Grown-Up Downtown! What have we got to lose?

Alice Dreger

2 thoughts on “The Year of the Grown-Ups (and Helping Local Businesses) // Alice Dreger”

  1. Thanks to Alice for all these great ideas! We can moan and mope about our new reality, or we can embrace it and see the silver linings. Alice, thanks for not being that person that wrings her hands and says, “somebody should do something about this!” Thanks for being the person that says, “Let’s do this!”
    I’m ready to sign up for Dan Bollman’s architectural tour, followed by a great lunch on the patio at Black Cat. If you haven’t been there recently, you should go!
    Thanks very much to all the positive thinkers among us.

    Nancy Cuddeback


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