Best of the City 2020 Winners: City Life


A traveling light projection show, a victory lap of a graduation ceremony, and five ways to have socially distant fun make our list of the best city life items and experiences the Queen City has to offer right now.

Illustration by Laura Greenan

Neighborhood Resource: Cincinnati Free Fridge
The brainchild of Jordan Tuss, Siri Imani of the Triiibe Foundation, and Toncia Chavez of ETC Produce & Provisions, this rainbow-colored refrigerator popped up in October at 1313 Vine. Based on a project in New York that created a regional network of the mini food pantries, the fridge landed in space shared between the More Free 2020 voter registration project and the Triiibe Foundation’s support center for people experiencing homelessness. Local restaurants and Findlay Market vendors (and donations) helped keep the shelves stocked, and at press time, the fridge was in search of a more permanent home. • @thefridgecincy on Instagram

Light Show: Projection Connections
When the Haile Foundation’s Eric Avner asked for ideas on how to stay connected during the pandemic, Doug Borntrager answered the call. The sound and video designer for Know Theatre, Borntrager had an idea for a sort of mobile BLINK, a traveling light show he called Projection Connections. With support from Know and WavePool, he began collaborating with other artists, then hit the streets in early May. His first route took him around Northside, and after a few test runs to work out some kinks (streaming issues, projector power, mapping fails), Borntrager began a summer odyssey through Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Neighbors and families gathered on porches, in front yards, and even in parking lots to catch the show. Borntrager also live-streamed each event on his Facebook page, where he also highlighted many of the collaborating artists. Storms occasionally chased him off the streets, as did curfews following protests in June, but he continued through the early fall. We can only hope that this Connection stays strong—and comes back next year. • Projection Connections on Facebook

Gift Card: Cincy Card Connection
Usually you think of 3CDC as a developer—their banners line construction fences all around Over-the-Rhine. This spring, though, in partnership with P&G and Empower, 3CDC launched something different: the Cincy Card Connection. If you bought a gift card from a downtown or Over-the-Rhine business and sent in a photo of the receipt, you’d get a matching gift card from another similar business. Cool idea—so cool the original funding was maxed out in 24 hours. A second round focused on retail and personal services, with the matching cards coming from minority- and women-owned businesses. In total, the project raised $650,000 for downtown businesses. Shop local, indeed. •

Illustration by Laura Greenan

Graduation Ceremony: Taking Laps at Kentucky Speedway
It started with Gallatin County High School. In May, that school announced a partnership with the Kentucky Speedway (also located in Gallatin County) that would allow its seniors to take a “victory lap.” A month later, graduates from Cooper, Conner, Ryle, and Boone County high schools queued up in groups of 40 cars, took three laps around the track, and posed for photos (in their cars) at the start/finish line. They didn’t set any speed records—pace cars going 45 mph led and followed each group—but it was a memorable way to cap off a high school career. •

Parking Spaces: Covington Carryout Parking
Do you remember March? Back in those very early pandemic days, when state leaders in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana ordered bars and restaurants to close, it was a blow to individual establishments and the industry as a whole. But the closings also sparked creative efforts to offer help and support. Later that week, Covington announced that it would change some metered parking spaces in front of local restaurants to carryout-only spots that would provide 15 free minutes for folks running in to pick up to-go orders. A small change with a big impact. •

Together, Apart: Five ways to have fun while staying socially distant.

Photograph by Lance Adkins

Outdoor Hangout: Bridgeview Box Park
Unveiled in June at Newport on the Levee, Bridgeview’s shipping containers create spaces for small business—including Wooden Cask Brewing, Ché on Wheels, and Leaf & Limb—and space for social distancing. •

Skateboard Crew: Dad Skate Squad
Between Memorial Day and Halloween, this group of rad dads hit the streets on their boards for a weekly ride. The brainchild of Jonathan Wilis, the idea was “making connections with people,” Willis told us earlier this year. Keep an eye on Instagram for further shenanigans. • @dadskatesquad

Socially Distant Drama: Fannie Lou Hamer Speak On It!
Know Theatre took this two-actor production, based on rallies by civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, to 14 parking lots across the area. The productions also served as voter registration drives. •

Movie Night: Hollywood Drive In Theatre, College Hill
The College Hill Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (CHCURC) decided to bring movies back to the neighborhood’s Hollywood Theatre, projecting films on the back of the building to benefit its redevelopment projects. •

Home-Based Trivia: The Approximate Knowledge Institute of Cincinnati
When bars closed, trivia night moved online, and Justin Schafer took his AKIC to YouTube, developing a touchless option, and giving away gift cards to Queen City Radio and Northside Yacht Club. (Schafer also wrote the questions for NSYC’s Yacht Ones hot wings challenge.) •

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