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People Seek Authentic Community

November 4, 2019

By: Dayton Community Development Association

Our historic courthouse square is the center of downtown Dayton. Six years ago, to capitalize on this asset, Dayton Community Development Association started Friday Nights, a free, family-friendly celebration every Friday night from June through August that includes live musical performances, activities for kids, and a market in the park. The idea was to build community, create a sense of place, and strengthen the local economy by drawing visitors and resident to downtown Dayton.

This is where we met Mary. Mary is a retired banker and life-long resident of Dayton. At age 86 she doesn’t get out of the house as much as she used to, but she loves the Friday Night concert series. When we were getting the program off the ground, she was our guaranteed regular, sitting in a bench in the front row with a smile on her face. She has become a favorite of the kids who like to dance by the band, and the vendors know her by name.

One June we had an incredibly rainy evening and weren’t sure it was worth starting the concert. But, sure enough, there was Mary, in the front row, holding an umbrella, with a smile on her face. Our team quickly upgraded her to a golf umbrella to keep her a bit dryer. Soon one of the food vendors came over and assembled a pop-up tent over Mary’s bench. It didn’t take long before a few other community members emerged from restaurants surrounding the park and joined Mary under the tent. As the rain cleared-up, Mary was at the center of a group of other smiling community members enjoying the music.

Bringing community members together in our historic downtown helps create our vibrant community.

Attendance of Friday Nights has increased steadily over the years. We see local residents who come every week as well as folks who drive in from surrounding communities. When we speak with locals and visitors alike we hear the same thing: people come to Friday Nights because they love the atmosphere and community feel. They like eating ice cream at the shop on the corner and popping into the mercantile to pick up a birthday gift. While they may not know we have 41 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, they know they like the feeling of where they are. It’s both the people and the place that make Downtown Dayton’s vibrant community. Dayton Community Development Association connects people to downtown, creating a sense of place and community. 

This post is an example of value messaging from the Sharing the Value of Heritage Toolkit. The Value of Heritage Message Platform can help you communicate not only what you do, but why it matters, which helps build support and understanding for Oregon’s heritage.

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