On June 22 last year we took a walk along the Cuyahoga River, took some pics and vid and posted to social media. What was special about that day? It was the anniversary of the 1969 fire that, coupled with a giant oil spill in Santa Barbara, gave birth to the environmental movement and served as a defining image for Cleveland. Last year we knew an army of social media types mistakenly armed with images from the 1952 fire (bottom left) was ready to pepper Twitter with shin-kicking reminders of Cleveland's unique place in the ecological universe.. Or June 22 stroll was an attempt to combat that narrative however it's 47 years later and people still use the '69 fire as a go-to image to define Cleveland (see #1 of Belt's Magazine's "12 Tips for Journalists Covering RNC 2016 in Cleveland").
Power Twitter users know how images of the 1952 fire are reposted ad nauseum by content bots. Here's a look at a string of tweets from yesterday - no #tbt reason, it's just out there. A steady drip of burning river images.
We've even anointed ourselves as the Cuyahoga River's PR response team: when we see burning river posts by humans, we provide images and examples of Cleveland thriving waterfront. Want to bet that 98% of the folks posting dated images of the fire haven't been to Cleveland in the last 4 years?
With media attention beginning to focus on Cleveland during: 1) the NBA Finals and 2) the Republic National Convention, it seems to us a celebration of Cleveland and the Cuyahoga River's comeback would be a tremendous opportunity for Cleveland to take control of and reshape the overused "burning river" narrative. As Destination Cleveland President/CEO and CEO of the Cleveland RNC Host Committee recently said "We can't control what others put out there. All we can do is to keep sharing the fantastic things that are happening in Cleveland - and that message is gaining traction". This is the idea behind "Ignite" a free celebration of the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire anniversary with three quality bands, food trucks, great beer and a drop of environmental advocacy mixed in to provide a media friendly waterfront celebration on the evening of Saturday, June 25, less than three weeks before the RNC.
If you have any lingering doubts about the power of a revitalized Cuyahoga River to drive the economy and improve the region's quality of life, spend a couple of minutes with noted author and speaker Jay Walljasper as we talked at the Greater Cleveland Trails & Greenways Conference.
Everyone we've talked to "gets" what we're up to and wants to help make "Ignite" happen. Our pressing challenge is securing sponsorship agreements by June 6 to defray the costs of hosting "Ignite" on the Cuyahoga River waterfront. Do you work for or know of an organization whose stars are aligned with Cleveland's rising tide that would like to be associated with what will be an annual celebration? We sure could use your help to make "Ignite" happen. Please contact us via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (216) 496-3763.
Cleveland's river deserves a fun party while the nation is watching, doesn't it? And you deserve a fun party too! Help us make "Ignite" happen!