Downtown Fayetteville group hires director, new events coming soon

Kelly Rich ( Meredith Mashburn)

Experience Fayetteville has hired a director to lead its new downtown initiatives division, and the first event coming out of that initiative is coming up next week.

The organization tabbed Kelly Rich, former executive director of the Springfield Preservation Council in Florida, to lead the new Downtown Fayetteville Coalition back in November.

The new group launched a new website and social media profiles this week, and Rich has assisted in organizing a new event called All Wheels Welcome to coincide with the Joe Martin Stage Race on May 21.

The event, organized in association with Experience Fayetteville, will take place from noon until 4 p.m. in the lot behind the Experience Fayetteville Visitors Center on the square, and will include a roller skating and skateboarding exhibition and pop-up skate park, all ages monster trike races, remote control car racing, the Community Creative Center’s Wheel Mobile, pickleball, and more.

The idea is to create a festival-type atmosphere near the finish line of the spectator-friendly Sunday criterium bike races that will be taking place around the square that day.

After the All Wheels Welcome event this month, Rich is also working with local business person and event planner Hannah Withers who organized Block Street Block Party on a new fall event called Falltoberfest.

“It will be like an Oktoberfest, with some elements of the harvest, and plenty of family-friendly activities,” she said. That event will take place from 12-6 p.m. on Sunday, October 1 on Dickson Street.

Rich was hired to assist with promoting the downtown area as a tourist destination, as well as serve as a go-between between the city and downtown businesses, streamline communication, serve as a central voice for downtown interests, lead marketing efforts, among other duties.

The Fayetteville A&P commission discussed the need for the position back in May of last year, when they voted unanimously to create the director of downtown initiatives position and to allocate $100,000 to the effort to get it off the ground, with the intention that the job would eventually break away from the city’s destination marketing organization to eventually become a self-sufficient, volunteer-led Downtown Fayetteville Coalition.

For the past few months, she’s worked to get the lay of land a bit, meeting local business owners, city officials, and other stakeholders and building those relationships.

“Everyone has been so enthusiastic and excited that I’m here,” Rich said. “I feel very supported, and included in the city. I’ve been able to make friends in the various departments, and I’ve already been brought into conversations about all the different things happening downtown.”

Experience Fayetteville CEO Molly Rawn told the A&P commission it was time Fayetteville had a functioning downtown association, and determined that getting the ball rolling would require someone like Experience Fayetteville to help it off the ground.

“I feel that Fayetteville needs a strong downtown association,” Rawn said last year. “I don’t know how they’re going to build a new organization without having a dedicated staff person, and I don’t know how they’re going to hire a staff person without having an organization from which to hire them.”

The plan is to allow Experience Fayetteville to serve as an incubator for the new group, in hopes that the new organization can be operating on its own after about three years.

All Wheels Welcome is free to attend and open to the public. For a bit more information about the event, visit the new Downtown Fayetteville Instagram account.

Event poster