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Peru's Second Saturday

By Blair Yankey

byankey@perutribune.com

and Anthony Lombardi

alombardi@perutribune.com

Peru’s first-ever Second Saturday drew nearly a thousand downtown visitors who enjoyed a cool, clear evening of live entertainment and activities for people of all ages.

Similar to Kokomo’s First Friday, Second Saturday’s aim is to make downtown Peru a destination and to provide a boost to local businesses. The event was spearheaded by the ReDiscover Downtown Peru Committee, a nonprofit group that formed in 2015.

The event will now take place once a month, year round – all in an effort to draw people to the city’s core.

About 60 local businesses and organizations participated in the inaugural event, which encompassed a two block stretch running from the railroad trestle to the Wabash River, according to Steve Anderson, chairman of the organization.

Dozens of kids and parents were spotted at a Kid’s Corner held on W. Fifth Street, taking advantage for free activities such as car racing, flower potting and woodworking, among others. Businesses stayed open later offering everything from free cookies, popcorn and water to face painting, photos and specials.

Patrick Werner, the manager at the Peru Music Center, had to work during the festivities, but he was still able to enjoy the sounds of music that echoed from the courthouse lawn. “I think it’s cool,” Werner said. “It definitely gets more people down here - more business.”

The face painting table was located right next to the music store, and Werner said a lot of people tricked into the shop as a result.

Khloe Hicks was all smiles as she got a butterfly painted on her face during the event. The bashful 7-year-old said the Peru Police Department’s K-9 demonstration was her favorite entertainment offering of the night.

“With the K-9 presentation, Khloe was able see first-hand how the dogs serve the community,” said her mother, Tara Hicks. “(The dogs) were actually detecting narcotics, it was really cool and I think Khloe learned a lot from it.”

Barbara Townsend, activities director at Hickory Creek at Peru, brought her two grandchildren Adilyn, 6, and Kaden Chamberlin, 3. The youngsters appeared to be enjoying themselves as the car racing station occupied their full attention. “I think this event is a great start, and I think it’s only going to improve in the upcoming months,” she said.

Mayor Gabe Greer said he was “really pleased” with the event. “It turned out excellent,” Greer said. “We had a lot of people show up. Couldn’t have asked for a better day.”

Greer was there with his daughters, Sophia and Lily. They got their faces painted, as well as enjoying balloons and popcorn – all for free.

Greer said his highlights included the PPD’s K9 demonstration, the music and the magician. A member of the ReDiscover Downtown Peru board, Greer said he thinks adding more entertainment could make the evenings even more fun  – a formula that add up to long term success.

Greer was happy to see the number of local businesses that participated. “That’s what it’s all about with ReDiscover Downtown Peru and Second Saturdays,” he said. “We want to help the downtown businesses reach out to the community and let them know what they provide and the services that are available. The heart of this is a marketing tool to bring people downtown so they’re familiar with their downtown businesses and get to know and appreciate what we have here.”

It’s a good time,” Peru resident Sherane Springer said on Saturday. “I heard about everything going on, and I wanted to go … I feel like our city should do more things like this.”

Springer’s favorite part of the evening was listening to No Regrets, an Indianapolis band that includes former Peru resident Wes Bean.

Overall, Anderson said he thought the event was a success. Since the event, he said he’s been trying to talk to all the participating businesses to get their feedback. So far, all of it was positive, he said.

“We’ve had some constructive criticism on a few different issues, and there was some confusion with the fliers and time of some of the events, but they’re all easily fixable,” he said. “All in all, with the size of the event and with it being our first time doing anything like this, we’re completely satisfied with it. We welcome all the constructive criticism we can get because that’s the only way we’re able to fix things.”

So far, he said he thinks the event accomplished its overall goal: revitalizing the downtown area while promoting local businesses.

“During the event, I talked to several people who walked into businesses they didn’t know existed or ones they knew were there but never took the time to visit them,” Anderson said. “And everyone I asked said they were satisfied with the business and that they would go back, so it all worked and was a great success.”

The next Second Saturday is scheduled for June 10. Anderson said next month’s event will include different bands, activities and performers.

“We had a lot of positive responses from people with many enjoying the magician, belly dancers and fire breather … so we will request that they come back to the next event.”