Downtown Bowling Green

Firefly Nights announces a Halloween-themed encore festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Even after a wet start to the evening, the more than 200 people who were around at the end for Friday’s Firefly Night festival, still wanted more music from the closing act Freight Street. So the local folk-rock quintet, fronted by Boo Lee Crosser with singer Flannery Murnen, drummer JP Stebal, bassist Devonte Stovall, and violinist Kathleen Schnerer, obliged. This was to have been end of the three-event community festivals for the season. But organizers also have an encore planned. The businesswomen who spearheaded and organized Firefly Nights in downtown Bowling Green announced at the end of the night that there will be one more festival this year on Oct. 19. The October event will feature the same mix of music, food, kid activities, and shopping, only with a Halloween theme. Working with Downtown Bowling Green, the Firefly Night fest will take the place of downtown treat or treating. Mary Hinkelman, director of Downtown BG, said that the festival was a way to continue the trick or treating while adding more activities both for youngsters and the whole family. Kati Thompson, one of the Firefly founders, said the idea came up through discussions by the organizers. Hinkelman responded favorably to the possibility, and suggested using it to replace downtown trick or treating. With about 2,000 kids taking part last year, the event is becoming unmanageable, she said, with kids having to wait in long lines to get their treats. They then approached the city about the possibilities of staging another festival, which requires closing Main Street in downtown off to traffic. City officials approved. In announcing the event, Thompson said: “Don’t worry we’ll still have plenty of treats for the children, but we’ll combine that with fun for the entire community.” What Halloween activities will be offered and how the treat or treating will be handled is still being discussed. Possibilities include hayrides, a kiddie parade, Halloween and fall themed activities, doughnuts and cider, and even a costume contest for children and adults. Thompson said details will be forthcoming. The Oct. 19 Firefly Nights festival will be held 6-10 p.m., same as the summer events. Friday’s event got off to a soggy start with a downpour shortly after it began. Festivalgoers sought shelter under awnings, and in shops and restaurants. Laura Wicks and Gayle Walterbach, two of the founders, said they expected restaurants did…


Think driving downtown will be clear after gas line work? Think again

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green motorists and businesses counting the days till the Columbia Gas work is done downtown should brace themselves for a rude awakening. The gas line replacement work that has shut down lanes and parking in the downtown much of this summer is just the first round of work along Main Street. “You ain’t seen nothing yet,” said Bowling Green Public Works Director Brian Craft. It’s not the city’s intention to make driving and parking difficult in the downtown area – officials are just trying to get necessary work done in a timely fashion. The good news is the downtown streetscape should be good for years once all the work is done. The bad news is the downtown is going to be torn up for another year or so to finish the job. “It’s just a circle of time,” Craft said. And the gas lines, water lines and roadwork all reached the end of their lifespans at the same time. The Columbia Gas work is scheduled to be done in October. But then water and sewer line work is scheduled throughout the winter, followed by repaving and rebricking Main Street next spring and summer. It could be worse, according to Craft. Initially Columbia Gas was planning to do its downtown work in 2019 – which could have meant that Bowling Green would have to repave the downtown streetscape again soon after completing the work. “It isn’t a perfect situation,” Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said a couple weeks ago. “But we don’t have a choice in the matter.” All the work is necessary – and will result in a safer and better city for residents once it’s all complete, he said. Raquel Colon, external affairs specialist for Columbia Gas of Ohio, said the downtown project which started in June will not be completed until sometime in October. “We have brought some additional crews in to keep the progress moving,” Colon said. The gas line replacement project has taken so long because there are so many individual taps to replace in the downtown area. Unfortunately, the waterline work will be just as time-consuming, Craft said. The old lines are being replaced with new 12-inch lines. And those lines will be buried much deeper, he said. “Ours is going to be cumbersome,” Craft said of the waterline project. “Hopefully it’s a mild winter.” In the…


Cheap parking in downtown BG may soon expire

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Patience has expired with the current parking meter fees to pay for downtown park lot expenses. So on Monday evening, Bowling Green City Council will hear the first reading of an ordinance to double the parking fees from 25 cents to 50 cents per hour. The price hike is proposed because the current parking rates are failing to pay for on-street and off-street public parking expenses in the downtown, explained Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett. All the nickels, dimes and quarters – plus a portion of the parking fines – are supposed to pay for the parking paving, maintenance, enforcement personnel and equipment, parking meters, kiosks, and taxes on the lots. The downtown parking fund gets no support from other city funds. The city’s 2018 budget projected a $21,000 deficit in the parking fund. That hole was filled by the fund’s balance, but that balance is dropping steadily, Fawcett said Friday afternoon. Also looming over the parking budget is the fact that three of the four downtown parking lots need to be paved soon. The only one to be repaved since 2000 is Lot 2,  behind Panera. The proposed fee hikes should not come as a surprise to downtown merchants or the organization which represents them, Fawcett said. “We’ve been trying to tell people as much as we can,” he said. “This is the culmination of conversations over the last couple years.” Downtown businesses were advised of the proposed parking fee hike on City Council’s agenda. “No one seemed surprised by that,” Fawcett said. City officials hope customers coming downtown are not put off by the doubling of the parking fee. Though some may try to avoid pay parking, Fawcett said Bowling Green’s parking will still be a bargain compared to other cities in the region. “We looked around the entire area. Even at 50 cents an hour, we are very competitive,” he said. For at least six years, the parking lot revenue has had difficulty keeping up with the expenses, Fawcett said. In 2013 and 2015, the revenue “just barely” surpassed expenses. In 2014, the city broke even. The last three years, the expenses have been higher than the incoming coins. “It has always been close,” he said. The parking fees, plus a portion of the parking ticket revenue averages about $220,000 a year, Fawcett said. The fee hike is expected…


Chase is banking on former Jed’s site downtown

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Two years after Jed’s served up its last chicken “fireball” in Bowling Green, the site at the downtown four corners is being remodeled to be used as a bank. Chase Bank has signed a lease with owner Bob Maurer for the old Millikin Hotel property at the southeast corner of South Main and East Wooster streets. “They have committed to the site and are actively remodeling it,” Maurer said this morning. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank National Association is still waiting for state and federal approval of the location, but bank officials are confident those approvals will be forthcoming, Maurer said. The site, with its bright yellow storefront, has been sitting vacant for two years. “It needed a lot of work,” Maurer said. “It had been a bar for many years, and it needed a major facelift.” The site gets a lot of vehicular and foot traffic, but no real bites until Chase bank. “We had inquiries, but nothing panned out until Chase came along,” he said. The bank is planning a major remake for the site – investing about $3 million, according to Maurer. “It will be completely new,” he said. Maurer said the downtown location, with no room for a drive-thru window, seemed like an unusual site for a bank. “We did give them numerous alternatives, but they definitely wanted to be downtown at the four corners,” he said. Chase will have a walk-up ATM on the Wooster Street side. The main entrance will be off South Main Street, and will open up into a different type of banking business, Maurer said. “It will almost be like walking into a very nice living room. It won’t be like a typical bank. It will be very formal.”      


Feeling congested? Summer of street closures in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Motorists trying to navigate through Bowling Green this summer have encountered many roadblocks – literally. The downtown is torn up and lanes are shut down as Columbia Gas crews replace natural gas lines. A section of Thurstin was closed earlier this summer for BGSU to work on a utility tunnel. Alternating portions of Manville Avenue have been closed for repaving by the city. And several railroad crossings have been blocked for CSX work this summer. “It’s kind of a perfect storm with Columbia Gas downtown, CSX at the tracks,” along with the city and university projects, said Joe Fawcett, assistant municipal administrator for Bowling Green. When the city notified residents last week that tree trimming on private property would close some spaces in a downtown city parking lot, a citizen responded on Facebook: “If they close any more streets and public spaces in this town, we all need to leave on vacation.” Fawcett understands. “It’s not easy,” getting around some areas of the city this summer, he said. “It isn’t a perfect situation,” Fawcett said. “But we don’t have a choice in the matter.” The city has been issuing frequent notices about which streets and parking areas will be next on the closure list as the work continues. “From the city’s perspective, we’re trying to get the information out so people know how to navigate the work zones,” Fawcett said. All the work is necessary – and will result in a safer and better city for residents once it’s all complete, he said. The gas line work is primarily on Main Street, from Clay Street to Ordway Avenue, but is also extending down some side streets, alleys and into parking lots. The project is part of many upgrades being done to prevent problems with aging lines. The bare steel lines are being replaced with plastic pipes. Initially, the Columbia Gas work was scheduled for 2019. However, since Bowling Green is planning major streetscape work in the downtown next summer, the gas line work was bumped ahead a year. “We wanted them to get in and out before we pave the streets next year,” Fawcett said. Raquel Colon, external affairs specialist for Columbia Gas of Ohio, said the downtown project which started in June will not be completed until sometime in October. “We have brought some additional crews in to keep the progress…


Firefly Nights fans party on despite gloomy forecast

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News There was more of the lightning bug than lightning about Firefly Nights Friday in downtown Bowling Green. The second street fair in the monthly summer series was staged under the threat of rain – telephone weather reports had ominous lightning bolts for throughout the event. Yet the rain never amounted more than a heavy sprinkle, and people weren’t scared way as they came to enjoy food, vendors, shopping, music, games and visiting. In deference to the predicted storms, the music was moved inside to Howard’s Club H and Doc’s. But when the storms failed to materialize Ryan Roth & The Sideshow did take the outside stage on the north end of the festival to close out the evening. And vocalist Flannery Murnen and guitarist Mike Bryce, who opened the festival with a set indoors, decided to perform a second impromptu show later in the evening outside on the south stage. Though the weather wasn’t as predicted, Firefly Nights came through as promised with more outdoor food options, both food trucks and eateries serving outdoors, more craft vendors, and more activities for the younger set. The third and final Firefly Nights street fair of the season will be held Aug. 17.  




Firefly Nights takes wing with well-received opening street fair

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Firefly Nights, a series of summer festivals spearheaded by a groups of downtown businesswomen, got a huge boost from Mother Nature. Clear skies and temperatures in Goldilocks range, neither too hot nor too cold, set the tone for what organizers and visitors alike declared a success, Friday night. Hundreds of people enjoyed music, shopping, craft booths, activities for children, food, beverages and just hanging out with friends and neighbors, along two blocks of Main Street that were closed to traffic for the evening.. “It was beyond good, it was exceptional. It literally brought tears to all of our eyes to see the overwhelming amount of support we have in the community,” said Stacie Banfield, the owner of Mode Elle Boutique. She along with Laura Wicks, of Grounds for Thought, Kati Thompson, Eden Fashion Boutique, and Gayle Walterbach, of Coyote Beads, banded together early this year to discuss a summer community celebration in downtown. Firefly Nights was launched. Late Friday as they started wrapping up the event, Thompson and Banfield reflected on the first street festival. “This exceeded all our expectations,” Thompson said. “It’s all we could have hoped for and it happened on the first night. Amazing.” The organizers recruited other businesswomen and a mixed-gender crew of 80 to 100 volunteers to help stage the event. Those interested in lending a hand can visit fireflynightsbg.com to volunteer. As director of the Bowling Green State University student union, part of Patrick Nelson’s job is to bring visitors to campus. He was impressed by the response to Firefly Nights. “Bowling Green is alive and well tonight,” he said “You couldn’t ask for a better first night.” He and his family, including visitors from New Mexico, came downtown. His family from out of state wondered: “Is it like this every night?” Nelson said he hoped people got a chance to visit the downtown businesses that stayed open late to reacquaint themselves with what’s here. Even as closing hour approached, customers were still coming into Finder’s Records. The store had stayed open an hour later, something it does for Record Store Day and the Black Swamp Arts Festival, and now Firefly Nights. “It’s been very positive for our business,” said clerk Marissa Medley. “It’s really fun.” Zach Baroudi, the owner of Kabob-It, also gave the event a thumbs up He had a food stall out on Main Street….


Firefly Night ready to take flight on Friday

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Let the dancing in the streets in downtown Bowling Green begin. After months of planning, the Firefly Nights street festivals are ready to make their debut Friday, June 15, from 6 to 10 p.m. on Main Street. The initiative’s first official event was a 5K run and walk in May to help raise funds for the festivals. Friday Main Street will be closed with stages for music on either ends, a beer garden, vendors and food trucks, kid’s activities, and downtown businesses ready for customers. This will be the first of three one-night festivals planned for the summer. Firefly Nights was the brainchild of a group of downtown women business owners – Stacie Banfield owner of Mode Elle, Kati Thompson of Eden Fashion Boutique, Gayle Walterbach of Coyote Beads, and Laura Wicks of Grounds for Thought. They’ve been joined by others including Amy Craft-Ahrens, who used her expertise from years with the Black Swamp Arts Festival to help with vendors, and Michelle Elson, who booked the bands. Now the effort is ready to go, abetted by a favorable weather forecast. “I am very excited and a little bit nervous,” said Wicks, “but mostly I am really looking forward to celebrating summer with everyone in downtown BG. I think it is going to be a wonderful party!” Earlier this year when the event was announced Thompson stated the goal: “We want to foster a diverse, neighborly and lively atmosphere in downtown BG. That’s the intent and sole focus.” Main Street will be blocked at the intersection of Court Street to the intersection of Washington. East-west traffic will continue to flow along Wooster Street. Bandstands will be located on either end with altering acts. Performers booked for Friday are, in order of appearance: Boo Lee Crosser, Sam Dell, Chris & Shellby, and Amelia Airharts. Downtown shops are staying open until 10 p.m. Sam B’s, Flatlands, and Qdoba will be serving patrons on the sidewalk and others are encouraging take-out orders. Several food trucks will also be on hand: Eric’s Ice Cream; Poppin George’s Kettle Corn; Roe’s Concessions; and Weenie Dogs Vendors signed up are: All Things Beautiful Bath & Body; Black Sheep Shack; Blanquility; Charming Oak; Exhale and Create; Happy Place Felt Boutique; Gilead Candle Company; Jamber’s House of Color; Krueger Sew Crafty; Michelle Adler; Portrait Art; PreshGoods/WoodStout; Staeble Studio A Photography; The Upstitch; and The…


Peach Peony shop pops up in downtown BG

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Since graduating in 2012, Ashley Hughes has returned to her old haunts in Bowling Green to shop and eat out. On one trip the Bowling Green State University graduate in tourism and event planning noticed an empty storefront. She didn’t see a vacancy, she saw an opportunity.  Last weekend Hughes opened Peach Peony Co. at 140 N. Main St., just as the shop’s namesake flower were blooming. Hughes reported a good opening weekend, but she won’t pop back up again until June 15 in conjunction with the first Firefly Night event. Hughes sells a variety of crafts and home decor products to appeal to all the senses. She has candles, foodstuffs including jerky, signs, cards and more including her own handcrafted dreamcatchers. While she stocks merchandise that appeals to all ages, her target market is college students and recent graduates. “I saw the opportunity here in BG to tap into the younger crowd,” she said. “They definitely appreciate the handmade quality and shopping small.” She set the time’s she’s open to their needs. Her hours will be coordinated with Flatlands Coffee next door, staying open well into the evening, including until 10 p.m. on Firefly Nights and in the Friday and Saturday of the Black Swamp Arts Festival. Hughes knew that she was only going to be open a few weekends this summer, and when she learned about Firefly Nights, that persuaded her to make those the weekends. Starting Aug. 15 she’ll be open every weekend with her grand opening scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 25, during move-in weekend. Hughes sometimes organizes her own shows – she had one in Upper Sandusky earlier this month and has another one planned for November. Her recent show included 45 vendors and food trucks. She also sells her wares at fairs around the state, Columbus area this weekend and then Cincinnati. She’s participated in vintage markets hosted by Bowling Green shop Painted Clover. She mixes in some of the merchandise from the shop. Hughes is still adding to her merchandise mix.  She has some screen-printed apparel coming in. The clothing will have Bowling Green and Ohio themes. Hughes was making dreamcatchers while attending BGSU. Her sorority sisters were so enthusiastic that she launched an Etsy shop. “I was always interested in arts and crafts and grew up going to arts and crafts shows,” Hughes said. Now she’s made…


Firefly Nights appeal granted for liquor at downtown events

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s first Firefly Night led hundreds of people downtown last week. Now the event will give those drawn downtown something to drink. City Council voted Monday evening to grant an appeal for a liquor permit for future Firefly Night events. According to Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett, the state requires city councils to approve selling of alcohol on public property. So the request was initially rejected until council could act. Now it will be up to the state to act on the liquor permit request. Council’s approval was met with applause from those in council chambers Monday evening. Prior to the vote, a pitch for the liquor permit was made by the four women downtown business owners who have organized the Firefly Nights – Stacie Banfield owner of Mode Elle, Kati Thompson of Eden Fashion Boutique, Gayle Walterbach of Coyote Beads, and Laura Wicks of Grounds for Thought. The organizers created a non-profit group for the purpose of offering food, fun and entertainment in the downtown every third Friday during the summer months of May through August. The first Firefly Night, which was held last Friday, attracted more than 200 participants in a 5K run. The events are designed as Main Street festivals, with the street shut down from Court to Washington streets, with traffic being able to cross Main on Wooster Street. The events offer kids activities, shopping, live music at both ends of the festival, and food trucks in the future, Thompson said. “We’re a group of passionate small business owners,” Thompson said. “We believe a strong downtown can breathe life into a community.” Thirty merchants in the downtown area have signed up to help sponsor the Firefly Nights, she said. “We want to see our businesses grow,” plus attract new ones, Thompson told council members. But without a liquor permit during the monthly events, people will have to remain inside businesses if they want to consume alcohol. The permit would allow people to purchase alcoholic beverages and enjoy the entertainment out in the streets, she said. The plan is for beer and wine to be sold at all of the festivals. Organizers have talked with police and fire officials, who supported the permit request. “We really believe we have something special in downtown BG,” Thompson said, noting that the hundreds of people who attended the “Chocolate Crawl” in…


Downtown Bowling Green hopes to avoid gas pains at summer events

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Columbia Gas officials gave assurances Monday night that the installation of new gas lines in downtown Bowling Green would not interfere with the summer fun. The $1.3 million project to lay 7,500 feet of plastic pipe is scheduled to begin June 4, and continue until early September. It will extend down Main Street from Clay down to Lehman and Ordway. The existing metal pipes will be replaced by plastic pipes. The project is part of an ongoing effort by Columbia Gas to upgrade its service. The gas service will go from about a quarter pound of pressure to 50 pounds of pressure. “That gives us not only a safer pressure to keep water out of the lines, it allows for homeowners and residents to use more gas appliances,” said Raquel Colon, an external affairs specialist for Columbia Gas. “You’ll have more capacity to have more gas come into your home.” This will include generators for businesses, said Jim Simon, project leader for Columbia Gas. “This project will be a lot of open cut, there’ll be a lot digging, not boring as we’ve done in the past,” Colon said. “What we’re doing is a lot of digging, and it will be a little dirty but the goal is a much safer distribution of gas.” Alex Hann, who is site and logistics chair for the Black Swamp Arts Festival as well as being active in other downtown events, asked about what provisions would be made for the five events already planned. On the downtown calendar are the new Firefly Nights on the third Fridays of June, July, and August, the Classics on Main car show on July 7, and the weekend long Black Swamp Arts Festival, Sept. 7-9 as well as the weekly farmers market. Representatives for all the events were in attendance. Simon said he was aware and sympathetic to the concerns. He lives in Bowling Green and attends the arts festival. “Our goal is to make it as safe as possible.” Hann said he was concerned about tripping hazards as well as conditions that make the area less accessible for those in wheelchairs or with limited mobility. Simon said that unlike in the past where the company has completed large sections of project before going back to do restoration, for the BG work they will do either permanent or temporary restoration as they go…


BG trims fat off proposed food truck ordinance

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Some of the leftover crumbs from the food truck discussions were tidied up by Bowling Green City Council Committee of the Whole Monday evening. The ordinance allowing food trucks to operate in the city will be ready for City Council to vote on at its next meeting. The decisions made Monday evening favored making the ordinance the least restrictive as possible – with the understanding that if a problem occurs, council will then handle the issue. But council member Bill Herald, who was head of the committee tackling the food truck issue, brought up several issues that weren’t addressed in the ordinance, just to make sure they should not be included. In most cases, the Committee of the Whole preferred to keep the recipe for food trucks as simple as possible. For example: Trucks in the downtown area Herald noted that the ordinance did not require food trucks in the downtown area to have “visibility triangles.” Council member Sandy Rowland reminded that the goal was to “keep the regulations as free as possible. Those are things we can change as we live through the implementation.” Council president Mike Aspacher agreed that council can “adjust as needed,” when problems arise. If a food truck were to park in an unsafe location, the city will discuss the problem, Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter said. The city has a history of working with people and coming up with solutions that are agreeable. “We really do try to employ diplomacy,” she said. Hours and days of operation Herald pointed out that the ordinance does not limit food trucks to certain days or hours of operation. Aspacher said the city’s goal is to not place such limits. “My feeling is we should not do so,” he said. Council members Rowland and Bruce Jeffers agreed. Several food vendors have attended city meetings to explain that they only set up on days and times when they can get plenty of customers. Appeals process for those opposed to food trucks The proposed ordinance allows food vendors to appeal if their permit request is denied. However, there is no appeal process for the public if the permit request is granted, Herald said. This addition would allow more freedom to the process, he said. Jeffers agreed. However, Aspacher and Rowland saw no need for the appeal language. “I just feel this is unnecessary,”…


Garden Group helps brighten up downtown BG

From DOWNTOWN BOWLING GREEN The day started out with lightening, thunder and a deluge of rain as the flowers were being delivered this morning by Sue Wolf and her people.  Over 1000 colorful healthy plants grown especially for Downtown Bowling Green by Wolfs Blooms and Berries, arrived at 6 a.m. Dedicated to the task, they were not able to avoid getting a little soggy.   More than a dozen members of the BGSU Women’s Garden Group meet at Grounds for Thought for complimentary coffee and donuts before starting on the planting of the flowers.  These women, some who are master gardeners, have volunteered to do this annual planting day for many years. They also tend to the pots throughout the season, trimming and dead heading the expired blooms.  They were all happy to be greeted by a few rays of sunshine as they set out down Main St. Mary Hinkelman, Managing Director of Downtown Bowling Green said: “We are so grateful.  So much goes into having the wonderful flowers that we have in our Downtown. We just can’t thank the community of Bowling Green enough for the donations to help us continue this service and our thanks continue to all who are involved in the growing, planting and care of the flowers.” The hanging baskets will be delivered and hung tomorrow to complete the planting project.  Be sure to take a stroll though the Downtown and enjoy the view.