The city and the university partnered for the first Rally BG event to bring their respective communities together. Two blocks on Main Street were shut down Saturday to highlight many downtown businesses and attempt to provide normalcy amid the continuing pandemic.
Despite Saturday’s heat, students walked over in groups as well as drove or rode the shuttle to the event. Community members joined them and brought their families and friends.
While the street was packed with entertainment, BGSU President Rodney Rogers hoped students explored downtown businesses, too.
Rogers said Floyd Craft, owner of Ben’s, told him students often discover his store in their third or fourth year at BGSU.
“Wouldn’t it be great if the first-year students learned about this? We want students to realize what a great downtown we have and how it’s a part of who we are as a college town,” Rogers said.
BGSU takes pride in fostering a community between the town and its students. This fact is reflected in BGSU’s achievement of being ranked one of the best college towns in America.
The majority of the downtown businesses were open and welcoming new and returning customers. Students got the chance to explore the various attractions and displays stores had to offer.
The event directly helped Bowling Green business owners and employees. Dawn Shinew, the dean of the BGSU College of Education and Human Development, commented that the event “was good for the local economy.”
Among the many businesses and stores, there were plenty of opportunities for students and community members to enjoy treats downtown. Food trucks including Poppin’ George’s Kettle Corn, NeNe’s Sweets, Manny’s Munchies, Frenzy on the Go and Street Tacos Toledo lined the street and attracted long lines of customers.
The city’s restaurants were also open to all and provided guests the opportunity to enjoy a taste of Bowling Green.
Chris Tracy, co-owner of Juniper Brewing Company, said Rally BG is an exciting event to “have right in their front yard.”
“This is what we love to see: university students, families, all together. It’s a dream,” Tracy said.
Dress for a Day co-owner Martin Huffstutler agreed.
For newer businesses like Juniper and Dress for a Day, which opened in January, community exposure is vital, Huffstutler said.
“At the end of the day, I think this is all about building community, recognizing that the Bowling Green community and BGSU depend on each other. We rely on each other and there’s value in getting to know each other better, and it’s an opportunity to build those relationships,” Bowling Green Mayor Mike Aspacher said.
The 90-degree heat didn’t stop students and Bowling Green residents from participating in the various activities either.
The event was split into two sections: an afternoon and evening rally. The afternoon had more child-centric events, including dinosaur-themed activities, dance performances and showings of “A Bug’s Life” and “Jurassic Park.”
The evening rally brought in more college students and older community members, while keeping a family-friendly atmosphere.
Students quickly connected with and joined friend groups as they walked the street together. A photo booth and selfie station allowed students to capture memories.
At the beginning of the evening rally, crowds gathered around to watch the BGSU marching band perform. Later in the evening, the BGSU dance and cheer team entertained all ages with an energetic and engaging performance.
BGSU mascots, Freddie and Frieda Falcon, made appearances throughout the event and greeted both students and community members, and they happily posed for numerous pictures with the crowd.
SICSIC, the BGSU spirit team, set up a poster making station and offered signs for guests that wanted a personalized message. This activity allowed students to check off an item on the BGSU bucket list: Item No. 6, “Steal a SICSIC Sez sign (or ask them to make you one).”
Bowling Green residents Greg and Bethanie Jenkins brought their daughters Lily and Olivia for dinosaur story time at 11 a.m. They decided to come back for the evening, too, to hit the food trucks and let Lily and Olivia make their own street signs.
The city’s residents and students were brought together for many of the activities.
“I think sometimes you forget when you’re a college student that there’s a community beyond the campus boundary, and so opportunities to get out and meet people and get to know the community is always a good thing,” Shinew said.
The event was meant to bring normalcy to the students and community, and the outside venue was picked to allow for physical social distancing, Aspacher said.
Aspacher said that “incorporating COVID-safe protocols” heavily influenced the planning of the event.
With that in mind, he also stated that since a lot of events had to be canceled during the pandemic last year, Rally BG was “an opportunity to come together and build those relationships.”
While the activities themselves, like the zipline, bounce house and Ninja Warrior course, were spaced out, many lines and crowds were packed together.
Face masks were not required, and Rogers said everyone was “being respectful of each other,” whether they chose to mask up or not.
Although this was the first Rally BG to ever occur, there is a possibility that it will become an annual event. Rogers said he “certainly hopes” this event will continue.
Bowling Green resident Kathy Roloff agreed that Rally BG should not be a one time only event. Roloff believed the event was so beneficial that it could be justified as a “once-a-month thing.”
“We hope this year will be a building block, and we’ll be able to put this event on an annual basis, continuing to grow the event, and build on the success of this year,” Aspacher said.