Challenge captures creative moments downtown

The challenge for Brookings residents and South Dakota State University students will be not finding an event hosted by Downtown Brookings Inc. that interests them.

Downtown Brookings Inc. created a photo scavenger hunt where participants captured strangers’ reactions on a camera as participants made pretend proposals on the street, acted as mannequins in store windows and performed musical group numbers.

The challenge began at the beginning of January and will end Jan. 31. Groups who complete the entire challenge post their photos of the completed tasks on the Downtown Brookings Facebook page and are entered to win a free dinner downtown.

Elliot Johnson, the executive director of Downtown Brookings Inc. and a junior sociology major at SDSU, created this idea in order to draw people to the downtown area.

“[Downtown Brookings is a] destination and a tourist attraction for everyone, so our goal was to try to get people to think that they could spend a whole day here maybe or they could do a lot of fun stuff that they wouldn’t necessarily consider a part of Downtown Brookings or a part of the process or the vibe,” Johnson said.

Johnson and Kaylen Larson, Downtown Brookings marketing director, looked into ways other organizations used promotional tools and came up with the idea of a photo scavenger hunt challenge.

“We came up with some fun, quirky ideas for people to do to try to challenge them to step out of their comfort zone a little bit and play along downtown,” Johnson said.

He wanted to do this challenge to get people out of their homes and to enjoy the winter. For Johnson, the challenge is an opportunity for students and community members to create memories.

“It gets people talking that’s for sure, and you can laugh about it 20 years from now,” Johnson said. “I think that’s the moral. You can laugh about these 20 years from now and think ‘what were we thinking’ and it was all because of [Downtown Brookings].”

The goal in the future, Johnson said, is to have a monthly challenge similar to the photo scavenger hunt. Johnson said he plans on doing something Valentine’s Day themed for February, but the specifics for the February event are still in the planning stage.

“Our goal is to get people to understand that Downtown Brookings, as an identity, is a place you can stay for a while,” Johnson said. “I want people to know that if you’re down here shopping for a new outfit to go out one night or you’re down here with your family eating dinner, we want you to plan for more that specific hour.”

One student saw the challenge on Facebook and clicked on the link to find out what the Downtown Brookings Challenge was. Megan Blanchard, a junior pre-veterinary medicine and animal science major, did not complete the challenge yet but plans on trying to finish it before the deadline.

“The challenges sounded like fun.  It sounded like some adventurous scavenger hunt with photos,” Blanchard said. “And also the incentive of possibly winning a free dinner, who can argue with that, right?”

Blanchard didn’t know that Downtown Brookings had a Facebook page until she saw the challenge.

“I think it’s a good way to build a sense of community as well as promote downtown businesses,” she said.

Blanchard said something she would like Downtown Brookings to do is have a street dance similar to the Country Nights.

“I really like exploring downtown and I know that there are some shops that I haven’t been inside,” Blanchard said. “I think this would be another good opportunity to go exploring.”