BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Downtown Battle Creek's typical farmer's market turned into a four-hour party on Wednesday. Thousands of people came out to Festival Market Square on McCamly Street, listening to live music, eating their favorite foods and mingling with local leaders during the city's first-ever City Fair.
"We’ve never done one before," said Jessica Vanderkolk, communications specialist with the City of Battle Creek. "We just wanted to introduce everybody to us."
Around 30 vendors were on hand cooking up all sorts of foods, from tacos to biscuits and gravy. The line for Korean barbecue was the longest of them all, going into the street. Kids played with Police dogs while donning red hats local fire crews gave them. A few people even stopped by the city's tents asking important questions.
“How do we run all those traffic signals? How do we plow the airport? You know, what do the police K9s do? When do we call the bomb robot? What does the city commission do and the manager’s office do?,” said City Manager Rebecca Fleury, to name a few. “This was a chance for everybody to get out and actually speak to those people working in those departments.”
Fleury said people asked all sorts of questions, which was the goal of the event: to engage in conversations with citizens. Some people asked for job applications. Others asked how to register to vote. And few folks even asked where the nearest Pokemon was.
"We’ve had a couple of selfies with the Pokemon and the city staff," said Fleury. "This is the place to come downtown Battle Creek. It is full of them."
Vanderkolk, who spearheaded the event, said she worked with the city's IT department to turn the fair into a Pokemon meet-up.
“They taught me how to do it,” said Vanderkolk bursting into laughter. “I have kind of learned how to do it. I wasn’t into Pokemon. But I’ve been learning about it since we’ve got such a great group of people playing it around here.”
The event took about 10 months of planning, Fleury said. And because of this year’s success, they plan on doing it for years to come.
“We’ve heard from the vendors that this has been beyond what they thought,” said Fleury. “We do have the concerns about parking but you go anywhere downtown there’s always parking issues. That’s a good problem in our eyes. That’s means people are coming downtown.”