Soul Sessions Podcast: David Lewis & Capital City Lights
On today's show is Deputy Director of Human and Cultural Services for the City of Jackson, David Lewis.
David is giving us a rundown of the upcoming Capital City Lights set for December 2 in downtown Jackson, and a look back at the city's Bicentennial celebration, coming to an end in December.
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Paul: This is Soul Sessions, conversations on culture from Jackson, Mississippi. I'm your host, Paul Wolf, bringing you a look at the people, places, and events that make us the City With Soul. On today's show is Deputy Director of Human and Cultural Services for the City of Jackson, David Lewis. David is giving us a rundown of the upcoming Capital City Lights set for December 2 in downtown Jackson, and a look back at the city's Bicentennial celebration, coming to an end in December.
Paul: Hey, David. Thanks for being on the show.
David: Hey, Paul. How's it going? Thanks for having me.
Paul: Glad to have you on this special episode as we head toward the end of the year where we will talk about Capital City Lights and the city's Bicentennial, which we are currently in the sunset of. It's been a great year. I'm going to get your perspective on all of that, too. But I know this is one of your favorite times of the year, isn't it?
David: It is. My office is already decorated, and it is. Some people are going to roll their eyes. It's usually midnight of Halloween, I'm bringing those boxes down.
Paul: Are there some Disney items in those Christmas decorations too?
David: I have a tree that is almost half covered in Disney related ornaments. Half Jackson, half Disney. So, that's where my heart is.
Paul: The perfect combination, and the perfect timing, too. Now, I know your brain has been in Capital City Lights mode for many, many months, now. We've had weeks worth of meetings going on. Capital City Lights last year was this brand new, collaborative effort among about two dozen different local organizations to say, "Hey, you're doing your thing. You're doing your thing. Let's do our things together." How did that pan out last year? And did that give fuel for the fire for the next iteration?
David: We've really had these different events going on at the same time, different people doing different things. And we've explored different options of what that looks like. We did it with Team Jackson, we did it through Downtown Jackson Partners. And after the pandemic, I think there was a sense of community and comradery of like, "Hey, let's do something together." And so, it really paved the way for us to build that table that everybody could come to. And so, last year we saw just such a great response to the ability of us to all work together, but also for these different communities and audiences to engage with each other with the festivities of the holidays at the core and the heart of that, just joy and celebration.
I think everybody had a really good time. It was very ambitious, and it was very expansive, but those were all good problems that we had. When we heard people saying that it took them all night long to walk from one end to the other. Yeah, it'd be great to just be able to quickly go from place to place, but we want people to walk downtown. We want people to see it, and it also means that they were there the whole time. So, we take those complaints, we try to find ways to make it a better experience, but we also know that this year and years going forward, we're going to continue to have a better event that's going to be more inclusive and more involved than the year before.
Paul: Yeah, we were a little spread out last year, and we'll be a little spread out again this year. But thankfully, the Department of Archives and History is offering a shuttle service to get you around.
David: That's right. They're going to be making five stops throughout downtown that will include the State Capitol, the Two Mississippi Museums, the Old State Capitol, the Governor's Mansion, and the Mississippi Museum of Art.
Paul: This gets you pretty much everywhere you need to go and places in between for food trucks, for music, for holiday activities for the kids. I know the planning is still underway and will be ongoing until the very last moments to bring that holiday magic to the city, but are there any activities that are new this year to Capital City Lights?
David: Yeah. So, we're going to do all the ones that everybody seemed to love from last year, but we're excited about really leveling up a couple of things. The market will be a little bit larger this year because I think that they needed more space. So, we're going to have more vendors, and they're going to be spread out a little bit better. We're going to have more performances and more music happening on the main stage. We're excited about really amping up the decorations around there. I know that our friends at the Heritage Building and those couple buildings around there, they've bought four times as many lights as they had last year.
David: Yes. And so, even there, and we're got new partners at the table with 4th Avenue. And it's going to be the championship game, so that's going to be all those festivities, as well. We've got more happening under the Planetarium with food trucks. It's a bigger table that we've built and more people coming to it. So, we're excited to be offering new things and hopefully a lighter and brighter evening for everybody to enjoy.
Paul: I just love the idea that so many of our merchants and collaborators and restaurants have really bought into this thing and they're ready to go.
David: Absolutely. This is a great event for people to really showcase what they have to offer and for downtown to be on display. That's one of the goals. We've got a lot of goals working together. One thing is we want people to understand and to experience what downtown is, and all it has to offer. There's some remarkable places to eat. There's some also remarkable spaces that people could envision themselves. We don't have all of those storefronts filled up, but we can do these popups in the evening and say, "Hey, this is what you might want to open up as your business here." We've seen some great response to that. So, it's a place to see and be seen, but also to dream and to take ownership of downtown and think about what it is that you want to see in and do in your city.
Paul: Truly an open house for the downtown area. Some folks may be wondering what's a ticket price like? How do I afford to bring the whole family down there? But for the most part, it's all free.
David: All free. All of it. Every single space, with the exception if there's a special event maybe for the championship or something like that, that'll be very much explained ahead of time. But most of all, the places that we're at are free. All the ones that Archives and History has, City Hall, all of that's going to be free because, of course, we're doing the Christmas tree lighting that night with the city, as well. So, it is something for the whole family to come to, and you don't have to spend any money. If you want to, you can spend your money eating there or checking out some great goods from some local vendors doing early Christmas shopping. We want to make it as accessible to anybody to come.
Paul: Capitalcitylights.com, that's where you're going to find all the updated information, including an interactive map. It looks great on a phone and on your desktop computer and tablet, too. David, I've mentioned that we would talk about the Bicentennial. Last year, Capital City Lights ushered in the Bicentennial 200 year celebration for Jackson, and this kind of puts the book end on it. Are you sad to see the Bicentennial go a little bit?
David: I am. It's been such a really remarkable year. We've done things very different. We've really focused on making it about the people of Jackson and empowering them to tell their own story. So, we've been working in communities, we've been with all of the wards, talking to people, and hearing their stories. And so, it's been such an uplifting experience to see what Jacksonians feel and think about their city, and it's really bright. It's encouraging. And so, we've had a really great year. We've had some great partners. WJTV has been our partner from a media standpoint. They put the logo on every livecast. We've worked with just about every organization you can think of to try to do giveaways, to partner for special events. We did a big thing for JSU's homecoming. Actually, I'm wearing the shirt that was a collaboration in honor of that. We've had artists involved, we've done a mini-grant series, we've done just about everything we can to really empower people to tell their story, and it's been really encouraging. So, it's hard to see that come to close, but I'm really proud of the work that we've done this year.
Paul: Inspiring and encouraging stories, learning more about your city, I mean, that's got to put you in a place and a head space to really want to love your city and make it better?
David: Absolutely. When you're talking to people about what means the most to them about their city, they're very proud of our city. There's so much pride here. And so, a lot of the work that we do in my office is really just getting off the ground, even quite literally, whether it's the planetarium or some of the work we're doing here at Thalia Mara Hall before the IBC, there's a lot going on. So, our plate is still really full even though the bicentennial will be over. But it's really a lot of long-term impact that a lot of this work is leading into, and we'll be able to really showcase people going into the future. This is what we have to offer, and we're always taking it to the next level.
Paul: We're going to put links to the bicentennial socials and website. And of course, capitalcitylights.com, a convenient link for you there in the show notes. David Lewis, longtime friend, longtime guest, Deputy Director of Human and Cultural Services for the City of Jackson. David, thanks for all your work, and thanks for being here today.
David: Thanks for having me, Paul.
Paul: Soul Sessions is a production of Visit Jackson. Our executive producers are Jonathan Pettus and Dr. Ricky Thigpen. To learn more about our organization and mission, head to visitjackson.com. I'm your host, Paul Wolf, and you've been listening to Soul Sessions.