Downtown Cedar Rapids Beginning to Draw Larger Crowds

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

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By James Steward

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – While the economy isn’t where it was several years ago, there are signs in Eastern Iowa that show things are beginning to look up.

In Cedar Rapids, more first-time visitors are checking out community events like the Farmers’ Market. So far attendance numbers are up by the thousands over last year’s Farmers’ Markets.

Despite the rainy start, many came out to try the tasty food at the BBQ Roundup. While it was a lot of fun, it was also a boost for the economy by getting more people Downtown.

“We have eight national vendors all the way up to Minnesota [and] all the way down to Florida and Alabama,” said BBQ Roundup organizer Doug Hochstedler.

The barbecue grills heated up, and families headed downtown, hungry for food.

“I’m down here with a bunch of guys. We eat together every Thursday,” said John Schenken.

Thursday was Schenken’s first time at the BBQ Roundup. And according to the Cedar Rapids Downtown District, he’s part of a growing number of people heading downtown.

They’ve also been heading Downtown for the Farmers’ Market. This year the first was a record breaker with more than 17,000 people. Last week it was more than 14,000.

“The Downtown farmers market is obviously a shining example of the huge, huge record turn out in terms of numbers. I know Uptown Friday Nights has been impressed with their numbers the last few weeks,” said Cedar Rapids Downtown District’s Quinn Pettifer.

The Downtown District said the people and their cash are helping Downtown recover.

“It’s our hope that people are not only going to have fun at the event they’ve come Downtown for, but also to discover businesses that are open, to patron the businesses, look at the construction going on, see the development happening,” Pettifer said.

After all, 85 percent of the businesses have returned after the flood and new ones are moving in.

And if you ask Schenken, whether it’s a new business or a big event like the roundup, the growing numbers will continue.

“Absolutely. People want to come back downtown. They really do. They just want reasons to get back down here,” Schenken said.

The Barbeque Roundup runs through Sunday.

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