In a time when historic downtown areas are often becoming a thing of the past, Manhattan’s own downtown district is vibrant and thriving with an influx of local art and culture in the form of Third Thursdays. The last Third Thursday of the year took place yesterday.
Third Thursdays began in May of this year and brings music groups, vendors and local artists like Kaitlyn Gebhardt, freshman in life sciences and animal technician at the Kansas State Veterinary Hospital, to the sidewalks of downtown to showcase their talents and wares.
“I found out about it back in June when I just happened to randomly come down here and see it all set up,” Gebhardt said. “So then I asked if I could set up down here. I normally was setting up at the farmer’s market but stuff like this doesn’t sell very well there and it sells really good here.”
K-State’s African Ensemble also performed a Ghanian dance for the final Third Thursday.
“It is a social dance, and hopefully someone will come up and say, ‘hey, what is that’ or ‘how do you do that’ or whatever,” Neil Dunn, dance and percussion instructor, said.
In addition to artists and performers, Third Thursdays also attracts visitors who come to peruse what the event has to offer.
“It’s really nice to see all different age groups and people in downtown walking around, and a lot of times they’ll have a musician outside the door which is a lot of fun for us and people will get to stop and listen,” said Taylor Apsley, a manager at Bourbon and Baker.
Downtown Manhattan, Inc. played a large role in making Third Thursdays possible. Event manager Morgan Biles said the series of events is a product of community efforts.
“A lot of it was community feedback,” Biles said. “It’s been an idea we’ve been bouncing around for a year or so, but this is the year we could finally bring to fruition.”
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Biles said surveys from downtown business owners and members of the community showed there was a desire for more things to the area. These results helped form the vision that became Third Thursdays.
The event’s success can also be attributed to joint efforts from the Manhattan Arts Center, Biles said.
“We do all the coordination downtown, but they find the talent for us,” Biles said. “They work with the artists and musicians and get them coordinated for the Third Thursday event. So this is our first year doing it, something new for Manhattan. It’s never been done, and we just wanted to bring more arts into the community and something to bring people downtown.”
With the positive feedback, Biles said Downtown Manhattan, Inc., the Manhattan Arts Center and other involved entities hope to bring it back next year, bigger and better.
“It’s been wildly successful,” said Biles. “We’re already in the planning stages for doing some bigger and better things … We’d like to close down the street and make it a street festival of arts and culture in our community but we’re not quite there yet this year but we hope to do bigger things next year.”