Hundreds of people are about topour tens of thousands of dollars into downtown Lee’s Summit.

And for a central business district already thriving through sales and Community Improvement District numbers, that is terrific news for Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street (DLSMS) staff, business owners, volunteers and those connected in any number of ways to the downtown area.

The culmination of the 2018 National Main Street Conference will be the Big Bash ““ an all-evening party that will be attended by 600-800 downtown and economic development professionals from all over the country right in the heart of Lee’s Summit.

And from an economic standpoint, it’s going to be a great night for businesses that have their doors open: each attendee will receive a $25 gift card to use anywhere in downtown. With the likely additional spending, the district could see $20,000 or more in spending just that evening.

When you factor in the undertaking of a wildly successful fundraising campaign ““ DLSMS has surpassed its original goal of $30,000 and could eclipse $50,000 ““ it spells a record-breaking night coming on Wednesday, March 28. DLSMS Director Donnie Rodgers said when plans were put into motion to bring the national conference to Kansas City in 2018, he had no idea Lee’s Summit would be such a central focus.

“I anticipated to just be asked to do a tour or two during the conference,” he said. “You’re truly going to get to experience what it is to be a Main Street community. We’re hoping that people take back a lot from their experience here. We want to be on everyone’s mind.”

Lee’s Summit’s hosting of the Big Bash will undoubtedly highlight what has been for years and decades a focus of revitalization and investment. DLSMS won the Great American Main Street Award back in 2010, and the massive changes in occupancy, marketing and awareness have only risen since that time.

Planning for such an event has been the product of a steering committee, staff and board members ““ along with a call for an army of volunteers to make sure everything goes right from the arrival of the first bus to people on the street corners helping guide Big Bash attendees throughout downtown.

Board President Dave Eames said the need to have planning, coordination and communication clear and concise will be a major factor in the success of the Big Bash. “We work with the City and other partners to make sure everything from permitting to street closures to event information and expectations are understood,” said Eames, owner of Fossil Forge Design. “It takes the experience of our full staff and board many months to dream, plan, connect, create and implement the ideas for this all-important evening. In addition, we need to make sure the merchants, restaurants and bars understand the impact of 600-800 guests and are ready to accommodate them, in a short period of time.”

The Big Bash Committee started meeting in spring of 2017 and was tasked with creating overall vision and how to tackle an event of that scale. “We want as many businesses as possible open that evening. Everyone here is going to want to support local,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers and the committee are encouraging all downtown businesses ““retail, service, restaurant, on all floors”“ to be open that evening. City Hall will follow suit, opening up for those across the U.S. to see the building and visit with staff.

“Understanding that these visitors are downtown allies, we want to make sure their time is filled with opportunities and experiences that they can take with them. Ideas and memories that they can apply to their own districts,” he said. “At Fossil Forge, we plan on displaying our interactive sculpture, having studio tours and letting our visitors explore our shop and projects. We are also raffling off a custom Little Free Library that a lucky guest can take back to their downtown to spread a love of literacy and reading. But most importantly, we want to show off our emerging alley. A public space that will give everyone a taste of how these overlooked passages can be ignited with art, beauty, lighting, seating, games and more.”

Amy Robertson, owner of Cameron’s Home Furnishings, said her trip to Valley Junction, IA, to scout out a former Big Bash location helped her better understand the needs of the merchants during the visit. And she said the message was clear: be open that evening. “The attendees of the National Main Street Conference are not browsers, they are hard core shoppers,” said Robertson, chair of the steering committee. “The dollar amount that Valley Junction said was spent in just one evening was staggering. March can be a fickle month for retail and restaurant so this event coming to downtown is one I am more than excited about. This will be a huge benefit to the retail stores and restaurants. It will be an instantaneous return on our hard work and investment.”

Robertson said that the excitement the Big Bash will bring rivals anything that’s happened in her two-plus decades in downtown Lee’s Summit. “This is such an exciting time for downtown. It’s the best I have ever seen it in my 20 years down here,” she said.

“Just thinking about having all of these Main Street enthusiasts down here makes my heart race. We get to finally show all of our peers just how great we truly are. There is a lot of work to be done, but it is all worth it knowing that we get to show off our downtown and make her shine.”

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