I have said before that my job essentially is to convince you to do fun and interesting things. This season I was struck by the importance of how important you are in that equation. Let me give you a for example. A couple of weeks before Christmas, the Downtown Association, with a bit of help from some friends, produced the first-ever “Downtown SANTA Cruise” a spirited, texted based scavenger hunt/pub crawl. The event itself was really fun and it worked well to direct participants throughout the Downtown, in and out of stores. It created a very festive environment for all who participated, and for those who just happened upon the crowds of scavengers frolicking around Downtown wearing Seussian Santa hats. In designing the event we knew we wanted to spread people around the district, which we did, but we also knew we wanted everyone together for some fun crowdsourced entertainment. For me, that ended up providing the highlight of the evening, and one of the highlights of the season.
As people arrived at the corner of Pacific and Cooper Streets, shortly after 9pm, I handed out twelve large (11×17) sheets of paper, generally one for each group of scavengers as they arrived. When I handed them the paper I said simply, “This is for you, You know what to do.”
What ensued was delightful. Without much more prompting the group broke into a round of 12 days of Christmas, the sheets of paper sequentially and in rhythm thrust into the air as cue cards. The sing-along continued until we reached the epic 12th round, satisfied with our collective performance as though we had been rehearsing the choreography for weeks.
When I look at the events and activities that have been most successful for Downtown they involve some level of participation from the “audience”. First Friday, Dance Week Santa Cruz, The Holiday Parade, all are built around community participation. Last year our summer “Ice Cream Month” promotion involved a raffle and a giveaway of a year’s worth of ice cream. This year we added a coloring contest and with just that amount of participation, engagement grew exponentially.
It has become clear that you (the audience) do a much better job of creating fun events than we (the presenters) do. This year we will continue to explore ways to encourage participation in our events and get you to do our job for us.
What are some of your favorite participatory cultural activities in Santa Cruz or elsewhere?
Happy New Year