“They’ll be swinging, swaying, records playing … dancing in the street … .It doesn’t matter what you wear, just as long as you are there …”
— Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, “Dancing In The Street”
That’s what they’ll be doing in downtown Lumberton through June at the city of Lumberton’s Alive After 5 concert series, which is co-sponsored by The Robeson County Arts Council and the North Carolina Arts Council. But this fun summer concert series isn’t just a reason to get together with friends after work for a good time. It’s also about giving energy to the revitalization of downtown Lumberton.
The concerts are Thursdays from 7 to 9:30 p.m. in the parking lot across from Adelio’s Italian Restaurant. They are free and open to the public. This year is the 15th anniversary of the series.
The series kicked off May 10 with The Holiday Band. Upcoming performances include Liquid Pleasure on Thursday, Jim Quick and Coastline on May 31, Bounce on June 7, North Tower on June 14 and Hip Pocket for the final concert on June 21.
Alive After 5 is important to the work Rediscover Downtown Lumberton is doing. It’s helping to bring people to the place where work is in progress to transform Lumberton’s historic downtown. Rediscover Downtown Lumberton has been working to revitalize that area through a number of strategies. One part of that effort is the Southeastern Health performance shelter located in the plaza. This summer is also seeing new construction to the plaza pool, which will become a splash pad. A new roundabout complements the appearance and ease of traffic to downtown.
“The purpose of Rediscover Downtown Lumberton is to ‘rediscover’ our downtown,” said Connie Russ, downtown coordinator for the city of Lumberton. Russ says the concept is to “de mall” and provide small residential and retail spaces, as well as connectivity to restaurants and nightlife.
“Alive After 5 originated to bring people back to our main street downtown areas after 5’oclock and this event does just that,” she said.
Alive After 5 concerts draw as many as 800 to 1,200 people, depending of course on the band performing and the day’s weather forecast. For local concert goers, it’s an opportunity to kick off the summer and begin the weekend with a mix of beach, top 40 and pop tunes. But according to Russ, it’s also a time for the Rediscover Downtown Lumberton group to showcase the things happening downtown and to do some small fundraising activities.
“Every dime raised by RDL is turned back over into signature downtown projects to help better our downtown area,” said Russ.
“Hopefully, with the new renovations that are currently taking place in our downtown with public funding, we will see a new interest of private property owners reinvesting in their properties with private funding to restore, renovate and preserve some of this property.”
Basic economics says that the most important part of the equation is demand. A well-utilized downtown can certainly make a case for private investment. A concert series — as well as other similar events — done regularly can generate revenue. Studies like the Americans for Arts’ Economic Prosperity report are evidence that culture and entertainment mean money.
Improvements take time, but in Lumberton they’re happening at a better-than-average pace. The increasing popularity (and frequency) of Alive After 5 and other crowd-gathering events in downtown Lumberton are good for the future of downtown renovation, growth and development. In the meantime, these events give residents in the county a free event where they can get away from their troubles for a little while, share a laugh, listen to some music, celebrate the coming weekend … and dance in the street.
You can learn more about Rediscover Downtown Lumberton and learn more about downtown event by visiting their website at: www.rediscoverdowntownlumberton.org.
James Bass is the executive director of Givens Performing Arts Center at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He may be reached at: [email protected]