JUNE 4, 2018 - VOL. 54 No. 8

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Levitt at the Falls celebrates successful Community Appeals campaign

An artist's rendering of the future Levitt at the Falls, to be located at Falls Park West

By 2019, Sioux Falls area residents and visitors will be treated with something few communities are able to experience-fifty free concerts each year performed by professional musicians from around the country.

Levitt at the Falls "Building Community Through Music," a Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce-scheduled Community Appeals campaign held November 1, 2016- March 31, 2017, raised $1.138 million from the local business community. A pavilion will be constructed at Falls Park West along Phillips Avenue, which will be an ideal location as it provides a central gathering place for all residents. The national Levitt Foundation requires that the site for each venue be "accessible to all and acceptable to all."

Campaign volunteers held a celebration to mark this successful fundraising endeavor on May 1, 2017. Campaign Co-Chairs included John Henkhaus, Jennifer Kirby and Chris Thorkelson. Kirby emphasized the value of the Chamber Community Appeals process and how it helped to produce a fund raising effort that exceeded goal.

"Levitt at the Falls would not be happening if we hadn't obtained the status of a Community Appeals campaign. Gaining this designation showed our partners, the national Levitt Foundation and the City of Sioux Falls, that we had the confidence and interest of the business community behind us," she said. "This designation also gave our effort legitimacy in the eyes of numerous individual donors. It helped us recruit volunteers, board members and committee members. It also showed our board, a group of committed volunteers, that it wasn't just us that thought this was a good idea, but that the business community also believed it would be a valuable addition to Sioux Falls. Every step of the way, the Community Appeals campaign has been a critical, vital step in making Levitt at the Falls a reality."

This endeavor adds yet another dimension to the increasingly desirable quality of life attributes of Sioux Falls.

"Levitt at the Falls will give families a place to gather and provide them with something to do all summer long. This venue also helps bring together our community. Both long-time and new Sioux Falls residents will see each other, enjoy the power of live, outdoor music and our kids can play together," Henkhaus said. "We believe it will also increase the appetite for live music year-round. As more residents experience it, more will want to attend other events year-round at other venues."

With an estimated 500-2,000 attendees expected for each concert, it will also provide a profound effect on the local economy by increasing restaurant, hotel and retail activity and attracting many out-of-town residents. And with Levitt at the Falls adding to an already thriving downtown, it will likely draw many other people who are considering a permanent move to Sioux Falls.

At the time that the Community Appeals Committee evaluated Levitt at the Falls and other worthy organizations for scheduling, one of the most appealing factors in the selection of Levitt was the dynamic partnerships with the City of Sioux Falls and the national Levitt Foundation, which Henkhaus said has been phenomenal.

"Every step of the way, both partners have provided information, access, expertise and knowledge about what we're trying to accomplish. Don Kearney, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, has been an advisor to our group for years, providing thoughtful planning and commitment to this project. Our Parks and Recreation staff are responsive and proactive - an ideal partner," he said.

Henkhaus stated that the national Levitt organization has been deeply involved, providing valuable guidance to local Levitt volunteers, as well as providing significant financial support which includes $500,000 toward construction, operational support in the amount of $250,000 for year one which gradually decreases by year four to an annual level of $150,000. They have also provided valuable knowledge, standards and advice at each key juncture that will make the Levitt endeavor much stronger.

Thorkelson says organizers are deeply grateful for the volunteer leadership and campaigners for helping to surpass the Community Appeals goal.

"The business community's interest, support and excitement has been motivating to all of us. This project is a perfect example of Sioux Falls pulling together and making this a better place to live," he said. "This is our Sioux Falls and nobody else can make it better but us. This Chamber of Commerce Community Appeals campaign has shown that this community is committed to making the Sioux Falls the very best it can be."

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