Festivals a great way to invest in community, draw tourists

Published 9:20 am Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Last weekend, the Hunter Ice Festival drew thousands of people from all over the area to downtown Niles. Businesses were packed from open to close, and many of those were open past their normal hours.

It was truly invigorating to see so many people filling East Main Street, but it was even more exciting to hear the enthusiasm of the downtown business owners and employees after their extremely busy weekends.

Record-setting business days are cause for celebration, but not just because of the financial profits. Festivals like this one draw people who wouldn’t usually shop or eat downtown, and if customers’ experiences are good, they’ll tell their friends.

Several businesses offered enhancements to the festival. Pizza Transit provided crafts for youngsters and featured goodies from Excalibur Bakery, who doesn’t have a storefront. Several restaurants participated in a downtown chili crawl, and the former Riverfront Cafe opened its doors for Psi Iota Xi to use as a warming center, which got the buzz rolling about the soon-to-be-revived restaurant in downtown Niles.

Two new businesses — Riley’s Recycled Relics and Backyards — made their debut in downtown, and plenty of others extended their hours to meet the many friendly faces.

All of these businesses are exactly why festivals are so important to communities like Niles.

For those who missed the Hunter Ice Festival — or just want to have more chilly fun, Dowagiac’s Ice Time will take over the city next week. Many local sponsors have signed up to host specific amenities — a spectacular demonstration that business owners in the Grand Old City understand the importance of these big events.

It was great to see Niles filled to the brim last weekend. Dowagiac, now it’s your turn to shine.


Opinions expressed are those of the editorial board consisting of Publisher Michael Caldwell and editors Ambrosia Neldon, Craig Haupert, Ted Yoakum and Scott Novak.