At the 1st Annual LEAF Downtown this past weekend, over 15,000 people gathered in Pack Square Park to celebrate communities, creativity, diversity, and families – a grand finale to two weeks of programming around Asheville focused on supporting arts education. LEAF Downtown included a Funky Cocktail Crawl, which launched on July 17th; Bootsy Funk Dynasty Day, held at New Mountain AVL on July 31st; the LEAF Art Dash 5K, which looped through downtown Asheville on August 1st; the unveiling of the Unfolding LEAF stage (U-LEAF) on August 1st; and the weekend long event on August 1st and 2nd. In addition to high public attendance, the event hosted 75+ VIPs, approximately 100 volunteers, 100+ staff and 500+ individual youth and adult artists performed on the Downtown Stage, Café’ Stage, Community Arts/U-LEAF stage and/or the three Busker Bazaars.
Prior to the event, public opinion often to compare the new local event to Bele Chere, which ended after 35 years of production in 2013. LEAF Communications Director, Cortina Caldwell stated “LEAF Downtown is more than just an event, and certainly not seeking to be a replication of any past events…this is a catalyst for change in our community to bring people together using music and arts, something that LEAF has done well for the past 20 years.” Long-time LEAF supporter and local radio personality Jeff Messer of 880 The Revolution states, “LEAF occupied the Pack Square Park area up to Vance monument, without interruption to the traffic and the majority of businesses in downtown.”
The community showed up for LEAF Downtown in a way that has been largely unseen by Asheville and was met with positive feedback from many of the attendees, contributors and supporters. According to the LEAF Community Arts (LEAF) team, LEAF Downtown has launched a new conversation for Asheville regarding community development and inclusive collaboration. LEAF is honored to be moving forward together.
“In all my years of living in Asheville, I have never seen such a diverse crowd in one space all together. I saw UNITY and DIVERSITY- homeless people I work with talking to wealthy people I know. LEAF Downtown broke barriers of racism, sexism, ageism, and socio-economics and brought people TOGETHER.”
– Carol, new LEAF Member (joined at LEAF Downtown)
“You guys were great and the scene is so positive. I have never seen this size crowd with no incidents. You did a good job!” – Sergeant Griffith, Asheville Police Department
“Music kept us all together.” – Bootsy Collins (Saturday Headliner & founder of The Rubber Band)
“What I witnessed this weekend at LEAF Downtown is the core of what connects us all as indigenous people that represent one tribe. Everyone I had the honor to meet was so very kind, friendly, and appreciative. Sgi Tsa (thank you) for offering this opportunity and for holding sacred space for all to come and be in the spotlight.
– Yona FrenchHawk, Master of Ceremonies
All in all, LEAF Downtown fulfilled life-long dreams for blossoming musicians (Bootsy Funk Dynasty Day), raised funds for LEAF Schools & Streets and LEAF International (Funky Cocktail Crawl), gave people a new reason to run through Asheville (LEAF Art Dash 5K) and connected the Asheville community in a new, more authentic way. LEAF Downtown will return Summer 2016 in addition to the ongoing LEAF Festivals (next one coming up Oct. 15-18) and year-round arts education programming locally and globally.
*This was a user submission sent in by Cortina Caldwell