Monday, September 20, 2004

Fusion events fueled new energy downtown

Mega-weekend draws to close

By Maggie Downs
Enquirer staff writer

Step one in the makeover of an '80s metal sensation: Lead the world's largest chicken dance.

That could be how Vince Neil, former Motley Crue singer, happened to be perched on stage at Fountain Square Sunday.

photo gallery
Photos of Big Weekend
Neil is the center of MTV's The Remaking of Vince Neil, a reality show documenting his comeback attempts with the help of makeover specialists.

Along with a crowd of about 50,000, Neil clucked, gyrated and waddled to the traditional Vogel Tanz (Bird Dance) song.

"You guys are great! I love the chicken dance!" Neil screamed.

The plucky ditty at Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati was part of the conclusion of Queen City Fusion, a weekend crammed with a host of downtown activities.

An estimated 750,000 people came downtown and pumped nearly $72 million into the regional economy, according to a study by the University of Cincinnati Center for Economic Education, commissioned by the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.

Highlights of the weekend included Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati, the world's second largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Munich, Germany.

The event drew about 500,000 to downtown streets chock full of beer and wieners.

The gridiron match between Bethune-Cookman College and Grambling State University was the climax of the P&G Ohio Classic and Jamboree, which drew nearly 40,000 people to the region during the four-day celebration of education and entertainment activities. The Classic's college fair also brought hundreds of teen-agers to the Westin Hotel to meet with representatives from about 20 historically black colleges and universities.

The Cincinnati Reds played three home games against the Chicago Cubs, including the Sept. 18 retirement of Joe Nuxhall. More than 140,000 fans packed Great American Ball Park over the weekend.

In addition, the sold-out Cincinnati Bengals opener against the Miami Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium, which seats 65,535, was televised nationally on ESPN.

Across the river, people of faith joined together for the Area Wide Worship Service on Sunday at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington.

"It's powerful to pray, but it's even more powerful to pray among a room full of people," said Ada Johnson, 71, of Indianapolis.

However, the convergence on downtown brought with it traffic woes and parking that skyrocketed to as much as $40 per car.

And then there was the problem of too much to do.

"It's great except that nobody can make it to everything they want to do," said Mike Gabrelski, 40, of Delhi Township. "Why can't we spread things out a little? People can't be everywhere at once."

Brad Rogers, 30, of Colerain Township, and Greg Route, 31, of Monfort Heights, stopped off at Oktoberfest en route to the Bengals game. They said the downtown activities are a necessity.

"Every other city does stuff like this," Route said. "It would be lame if we didn't do it."

For John and Kathleen Wright of Northside, 35 and 33, respectively, Fusion weekend was refreshing after seeing downtown businesses such as Mullane's Parkside Cafe and Nick & Tony's Chophouse close.

"Pretty much all we have left are Oktoberfest and Taste of Cincinnati, but it's still nice to see people coming downtown," Kathleen Wright said. "It's an excuse to come together and have some fun."

"But what it comes down to is that it doesn't happen often enough," John added.



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