A crowd listened to the band on stage at the south end of the new downtown plaza during last Thursday’s Casper Art Walk. Kids splashed in the fountain on the other side. People strolled through the walkways between and took in a photography show while volunteers poured beer at David Street Station.
The monthly Art Walk is one event among a host of concerts, festivals and family activities growing in the outdoor space. Crowds have filled the plaza every day since water started flowing through the splash pad earlier this month with the second phase of construction complete.
The plaza has increased the number of events in the community and brought crowds downtown on a regular basis, Downtown Development Authority CEO Kevin Hawley said.
“It’s doing everything it was supposed to do, not only for the community but for downtown,” Hawley said. “It’s grown significantly and people are coming downtown that a year and a half ago you never saw them.”
David Street Station opened last August in time for the Wyoming Eclipse Festival and hosted chart-topping country musician Dylan Scott the following month. Events followed every few weeks as construction for the second phase continued. Now there are events most days of the week.
“All summer we are jam-packed,” Hawley said.
Weekly events start Mondays with Lunch on the Lawn featuring young local performers. Wyoming Food for Thought moved its Summer Market to Tuesday evenings to the plaza. Family game nights take place every other Wednesday, and the plaza hosts events for the Casper Art Walk every first Thursday of the month, Jackie Landess of the Downtown Development Authority said.
Family movie nights are planned every other Friday night, while visitors can take in regional and national touring music acts on alternating weeks.
Saturdays bring special events all summer, while churches have been renting the space for Sundays.
On Thursday the plaza will host a University of Wyoming pep rally with highlight videos of the UW Cowboys on the big screen and appearances by President Laurie Nichols, coaches, and UW’s marching band and cheerleaders. Other upcoming events include a city-wide festival in August, a fly fishing expo and a new event called Fiesta Wyo in September, Landess said.
“Just this summer it’s 75 major productions, plus sprinkled in little events too,” Hawley said. “I mean we’re well over a hundred events.”
A week after school let out, the splash pad alone has been drawing 800 to 1,000 people a day, and about 1,500 come for the Tuesday night summer markets, Hawley said.
The newly-opened second phase also includes public restrooms, fire pits and an observation deck. The splash pad becomes an ice skating rink in winter.
The community has supported and is coming out to the plaza, and it’s only going to get bigger, Hawley said.
“I think the biggest thing for us is not only being proud but just appreciating truly how generous this community is through donors and sponsors,” Hawley said. “They made this possible and they gave this to Casper. It truly is for the community by the community.”
The David Street Station is part of the Downtown Development Authority, which raised $5.5 million in private funds to build the project, Hawley said.
“We put all of our dollars back into providing free family fun events for the community,” Hawley said. “And that’s only fueled by the generosity of this community and our donors and sponsors.”
The agency started a program for corporate sponsors to individuals to donate, and it’s just as important to have volunteers donate their time, Hawley added.
With the growth of the station and its events, the agency launched a new “ambassador program” where volunteers can train to help with tasks like set-up and clean-up for events, maintaining the facility and social media, Hawley said.
“It’s a huge help to have volunteers,” he added.
Makayla Mette poured beer at David Street Station while volunteering during last week’s Art Walk. She signed up with her coworkers from Porter, Muirhead, Cornia & Howard, CPAs to help at the monthly events.
“We just wanted to donate our time and be outside and enjoy the awesome place that this is,” Mette said. She said she and her colleagues have watched the construction from the eighth floor office in a nearby downtown building and now watch the growing crowds.
“They’re having weekly events now, and food trucks, and there’s just a ton of stuff going on all the time,” she said.
The Youth Empowerment Council displayed a community photography show at David Street Station during last week’s June Art Walk.
Earlier this year, the group planned the event for the plaza, said member Kayla Morrison, 17. The downtown location was an ideal spot, and she didn’t mind spending the evening there, either.
“I like coming down here whenever I can, and I like all the people and I like all the different businesses that come out,” she said. “It’s a lot different than just the usual.”
The Youth Empowerment Council treks through the plaza as a group about once a month, coordinator Brittlynn Bulgrin said.
She’s also been trying to get outside and meet friends, which she’s doing more often by attending more events, like Lunch on the Lawn shows every Monday, she said.
“I come to about every single event they have,” Bulgrin said.