Longmont’s Unity in the Community is in the business of fun for the whole family. At the same time, families get to know the businesses of Longmont. On Aug. 25 the Chamber brings a street festival to downtown with entertainment, fun and the opportunity to get to know the businesses and nonprofits that move Longmont forward.
For almost two decades, Unity in the Community has been a part of life in the Front Range. Karen Stallard, the Chamber’s Business Development Director, said the event took a time out during the Pandemic but has come back strong with more than 120 booths of organizations and businesses, food and activities. There’s even Longmont Living Room, an outside parlor for conversations with local, state and federal officials. The event ends with a free concert featuring a local band.
“Unity is becoming more and more relevant over recent years,” she said. “We are coming back and reminding everyone that talking to people of different viewpoints with good civil discourse is important. This event is named for unity, and that resonates with people as we don’t always see unity in our world. It is relevant and poignant in our town and our own backyard. We encourage people to come to this place and space where unity can happen in Longmont and the rest of the Front Range. Anyone and everyone can meet the businesses, elected officials and find out how to get involved. It’s a one-day event but not a one-day sentiment.”
“Unity in the Community is kind of a new form of downtown street festival,” Stallard said. “We expanded it substantially when we moved downtown. We’ll close the whole intersection at 4th and Kimbark, from Main Street to Emery. There will be food trucks and drinkeries. We love Putt Putt, so we will build a course on the plaza of the library. We have lots of hands-on family-friendly activities. It’s not the not typical business event, because we throw in physical engagement like the dunk tank.”
It’s an advantage that the Longmont Chamber is not confined to district lines, Stallard said. “Unlike other Downtown events, we can work with members and nonmembers across Longmont. Maybe there are businesses you have driven past and you don’t know what they do. Now you can meet businesses and organizations that share your core values and get connected. We have a range of industries that’s all over the map. We even have STEAM Street in partnership with the St. Vrain Valley School District. It’s a huge opportunity for all parts of the community to come together, which of course we didn’t have during the pandemic.”
It’s the kind of event community leaders are pleased to support. Jill Stravolemos, publisher and CEO of Prairie Mountain Media, said, “At the Longmont Times-Call and Longmont Magazine, we’re committed to delivering community news. But we also share the belief that the quality of life we enjoy in this community depends on our willingness to support it with our time and resources. Supporting events like Unity in the Community is our responsibility and privilege.”
Stallard said there will be a nice variety of food, including tacos, Americana, barbecue and vegan. Local breweries and drinkeries will serve in the food and beverage area, with a wine bar, craft distilleries, cider, spirits and even mocktails. Stallard said the event is like a beer garden because people can walk freely throughout the area and even into the evening concert.
Five local nonprofit organizations will be chosen in early August to get grants from the Chamber’s fund in Longmont’s Community Foundation. Each nonprofit will get $1,500 and may even receive more as people vote for their favorite organization. The money raised from the sale of drink tickets will be divided among the five recipients based on the proportion of votes they receive.
In 2019, engineer Matt Stallard invented a 12-foot-tall vacuum-powered ping pong ball voting machine called The Giving Tower that tallies votes for the five recipient nonprofits selected for the grant. They each receive a share of the profits made on drink tickets during the event.
The organization that received the largest proportion of votes last year, Annie and Millie’s Place, is the feature story in Longmont Magazine this month (see page 16). Kristen Baltrum, Founder and Executive Director, said receiving funds from the popular vote was very important to the organization that helps homeless people with their pets. “Because we didn’t have longstanding awareness in the community, we were surprised to win the Unity funds,” she said. “It gave us one of our first major wins, followed by big moments of huge celebration. We could proclaim that we have the backing of the community. We were young and new, and the Unity festival started us on a strong footing”
“High Plains Bank has been the presenting sponsor of Unity in the Community since 2019 when it was transformed to an outdoor, family and community-centric event in downtown Longmont,” said Michelle Hovdesven, AVP, Shareholder Relations at High Plains Bank. “Even before we became a presenting sponsor, we wanted to support our local nonprofits, so High Plains Bank, the Longmont Community Foundation and the Longmont Chamber of Commerce established the ‘Unity Funds the Community’ fund. This is a grant fund available to those nonprofits participating in the Unity in the Community event and we have granted over $20,000 to date to Unity nonprofit participants.”
“High Plains Bank is a community bank that was founded in 1908 in Flagler, CO, and we now have five branches in Colorado. We opened our doors in Longmont in 2013 and have been humbled by the warm welcome from our community. We are employee and family owned and passionate about building thriving communities. This event deeply aligns with our values so we are delighted to participate and support this inclusive, community-building event.”
The festival has the backing of leaders throughout Longmont. Colin Argys, Marketing & Event Specialist for Longmont Downtown Development, said, “Unity in the Community is such a wonderful community event in downtown Longmont. We love to see the confluence of business leaders, policy leaders, nonprofits, and the greater community come together for such a fun and enriching evening. The Chamber team works so hard to inject new energy into the event each year and bring the community together to network, learn, discover, and have fun!”
Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce, 528 Main St., Longmont, 303.776.5295, longmontchamber.org/unity
By Linda Thorsen Bond, Longmont Magazine
Photos: Unity in the Community/John Robson Photography