Big events are now a “thing” in Emporia. We have a series of international events that draw thousands of people into the community, but we need your help to keep events growing. We also need you to do a few things to ensure that you actually make money during large events (your profitability is important to us). The following ideas and strategies can help Emporia events continue to grow, and they can help your business or organization gain some profit.
1. The Dirty Kanza welcome really starts NOW.- Come to downtown Emporia on any weekend, and you will see vehicles with bike racks parked on Commercial. If you notice the licence plates, they aren’t from Lyon County. It is really hard to simulate the conditions of the Dirty Kanza, so a lot of riders simply come to Emporia to experience the route for themselves. Yes, the race isn’t until June 3rd, but the visitors are already here. If you have DK specials that you would like for us to promote on the Etown App please email them to the office or call with details!
2. Windows and signage.- The easiest way for a business to welcome visitors is simply putting up window decorations and signage that welcomes riders. It sounds weirdly simple, but simply showing a little support can draw people in. When several businesses have a similar “welcome” message, it has a tremendous impact. Would you like a bike to display in your store front? Our wonderful friends at Eclectic Bikes have offered to let local businesses borrow a cool bike for their windows! Call Lorena at 620-208-6200 and she can help you out.
3. Chalking is a family affair. Last year, Jessica Buchholz developed the concept of a “welcome wagon” where local citizens chalked sidewalks to welcome riders to the Dirty Kanza. It was a hit! Everyone can chalk a welcome sign, draw a logo, (attempt to) draw a bike, etc. We had a lot of families come downtown last year for sidewalk chalking, and the event served as a good way to teach kids community pride while doing something constructive as a family. CLICK HERE for this year’s Welcome Wagon details on Facebook!
4. Don’t be afraid to say “hi”! Riders probably won’t bite. If you see someone in lycra rolling around on an impressive bike with body fat under 10%, there is a good chance they are a Dirty Kanza rider. Walk up to them, say “hi” and welcome them to the community. Ask them where they are from. Engage them in conversation. You will be happy you did.
5. Be a resource! If you know basic locations, the Dirty Kanza schedule and helpful community tips, you can be invaluable to riders attending to the Dirty Kanza. Remember to highlight the unique local businesses that riders can’t find where they are from- that’s what keeps them coming back to Emporia beyond the race. Being a resource also means volunteering. Sign up for volunteer slots to help with the Block Party, check points or the thousand other things going on DK week. CLICK HERE for a volunteer form.
6. Register a booth. Last year’s Emporia Main Street Dirty Kanza Finish Line Party brought between 6,000 and 7,000 people downtown. That’s a lot of potential customers. The block party is a good opportunity to sell products, market your organization or make connections. Even if you have a storefront, you can use the Finish Line Party to push people to your business during the event day and beyond. CLICK HERE for a booth registration form.
7. Remember, the Dirty Kanza doesn’t stop when the last rider crosses…- Last year breakfast venues got crushed the Sunday after the Dirty Kanza. Here’s the thing about riding 200 miles- you might not want to instantly get back into a car the next day without stretching your legs out. Relationships established at the Dirty Kanza often result in repeat visits to the community, so try not to look at this event as a “day”, try and look at it as an “introduction”. And, if you can be open early on Sunday, you might have some solid traffic. Beyond Sunday, remember to record contact information from “out of area” riders. If they love your products, an on-line sales relationship could blossom with a little extra communication. Let people know you can ship items (signs at the register are important) if they find something that won’t fit in their luggage on the way back home.
8. Get on a bike! When communicating with others, it helps if you speak their language. The easiest way to communicate with a cyclist is to jump on a bike and learn about the sport through doing. You don’t have to be knee deep in carbon fiber forks and tubeless tires to talk to a rider. Simply experiencing the “home turf” of the Flint Hills on a bike is sufficient to communicate with most DK participants.
9. Help keep the hills clean! After the Dirty Kanza comes the “Klean Kanza“, where volunteers head out to pick up the race route. Outside of an errant water bottle or occasional GU packet, riders are pretty clean folks. The Dirty Kanza staff does a great job of communicating with riders that “you take out whatever you bring in”. Volunteering to pick up any trash on the course (even if it wasn’t generated by the Dirty Kanza) is a great way to appreciate the Flint Hills and say “thank you” to all the property owners that generously allow riders on their land.
10. INVITE YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY! This is the big one… Invite everyone you know to the Dirty Kanza launch and Emporia Main Street Dirty Kanza Finish Line Party! For folks that have never experienced Emporia, this event is one heck of an introduction. If you know some people that haven’t made it back to Emporia for a few years, they may not recognize the community. If you know some locals that are “on the fence” about attending, the Dirty Kanza is an awesome chance to absorb some community pride by seeing our city through the eyes of others. Share our Finish Line event on Facebook. Watch for videos the day of the race that you can like, comment on and share. E-mail, call and write your friends and family. Your outreach helps the event and the community grow. Your advocacy means people will visit local businesses, develop relationships and (hopefully) come back to Emporia. Your “word of mouth” advertising is critically important to the health of the Emporia economy, and this event should be an easy sale to the people in your life.
The Dirty Kanza doesn’t magically appear in the community. The event has grown significantly (CLICK HERE for a 2010 photo album for some comparison images), due to the hard work of a lot of different individuals. Main Street staff works a 20+ hour day the day of the event, but we work on Dirty Kanza related items for a good portion of the year. Public Works, Emergency Management, Facilities Management, the Lyon County Sheriff Department, Emporia Police Department and over 150 volunteers have to come together with Dirty Kanza Promotions to pull this event off. The DK hasn’t ever been a money maker for Main Street, but the impact to the community has been significant. We want Emporia to thrive by DOING things, and if all of us make the commitment to implement a few of the strategies listed above, we will continue to grow the Dirty Kanza and its impact on Emporia.