After weeks of sorrow, Austin Smith is ready to have a good time.
“We need to get everybody back together,” said Smith, the general manager of Ned Peppers, the Oregon District bar where an Aug. 4 mass shooting ended outside the front door. “We need to show that one guy is not going to take down the whole community, and celebrate that.”
Organizers of Gem City Shine, a free block party hosted by Dave Chappelle in Dayton’s Oregon District from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. this Sunday, Aug. 25, say the event is meant to reclaim the neighborhood following the mass shooting, in which a 24-year-old gunman killed nine people and injured dozens of others before being killed by police.
An unannounced list of national and local performers is slated to appear at the festival, which is expected to draw more than 20,000 people. Rapper Kanye West was spotted at RiverScape MetroPark Friday afternoon.
There also have been reports of his wife, Kim Kardashian West, being seen in the Miami Valley.
Smith said weekends have been slower since the shooting, but daytime traffic in his bars has been good. The Ned Peppers manager plans to have 20 extra staff members on Sunday, bringing the total to about 47.
“We are gearing up for a Halloween-type event,” Smith said. “We will be open, and we are hoping a bunch of people show up.”
Natalie Skilliter, a member of the Oregon District Business Association board, said her business, Corner Kitchen restaurant, is not typically open on Sundays and will not be open during Gem City Shine.
Several others will be open, however.
They include Roost Modern Italian, Trolley Stop, Press coffee shop, Lily’s Bistro, Blind Bob’s, Ned’s, Hole in the Wall, Heart Mercantile, LUNA Gifts and Botanicals, and Salar Restaurant and Lounge. Speakeasy Yoga will host an open house.
Hours of operation will vary.
“I would encourage people to come early, before 4 p.m. Come hang out. Do some shopping. Grab something to eat,” Skilliter told this news organization.
East Fifth Street will be closed between Patterson Boulevard and Wayne Avenue beginning as early as 6 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 25. There will be additional closures along Wayne Avenue. Streets will reopen late Sunday night to early Monday morning, city officials said.
The event hosted by Chappelle begins at 4 p.m.
Dayton native Takiya Robinson was among the first to get her tickets to Gem City Shine.
She’s a Dave Chappelle fan who has not been able to attend any of his Juke Joint barn parties on a farm outside of Yellow Springs.
More than that, Robinson says she is a fan of the Oregon District.
“(I want) to show that we are not afraid to go down to the Oregon District,” she said. “I think that is the main thing, just a show of solidarity.”
Robinson counts Thai 9, Oregon Express, Goodwill and Wiley’s Comedy Joint among her favorite places to visit in the the historic neighborhood.
“It did cross my mind about going down there in such a large crowd, but we cannot be fearful,” she said. “This is our home. We live here. I grew up here. I want there to be happiness. I want to go down there and dance and laugh and experience a good time.”
Val Beerbower of the Downtown Dayton Partnership said there may be long lines at the event’s three entrances: Wayne Avenue and Van Buren Street, Wayne and Fourth Street, and East Fifth Street and Patterson Boulevard.
There will be metal detectors, and bags, including purses, will be restricted.
Beerbower said Chappelle and his team are asking people not to use their cellphones during the festivities.
“We are not taking cellphones away, but we are asking people to refrain from using them,” Beerbower said, adding that Chappelle wants people to live in the moment.
Credentialed media will be the only people allowed to use professional camera equipment, she said.
The event is firearm-free.
About 200 first responders will be on hand throughout the day and evening, Beerbower said.
People can obtain a commemorative T-shirt with a minimum donation of $20. Proceeds will benefit The Dayton Foundation’s Oregon District Tragedy Fund.
The Mosaic Institute of Greater Dayton and The Contemporary will partner on an activity station for those wishing to express their feelings through arts.
Smith said it has been a hard few weeks for the neighborhood.
“I think the biggest point is that we want to prove that everything is good to go,” he said. “We are looking forward to getting back to some normalcy.”