Cincinnati had a good year in 2017. It’s easy to recall multiple moments when I felt the city practically glowing. Walking up a happy, bustling Pleasant Street in Over-the-Rhine at 10 o’clock on a Saturday night during Blink. Screaming with 30,000 others at Nippert Stadium as Mitch Hildebrandt saved a penalty kick during a crazy FC Cincinnati victory. Standing awestruck in Music Hall’s new auditorium. Serving as a judge at ArtWorks’ Big Pitch competition for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
Was 2017 a breakthrough kind of year for Cincinnati? For a long time, we’ve been trained to assess our collective status only in relation to cities of similar size and stature, and Amazon and Major League Soccer continued to pit us against other places in order to win approval. Perhaps this year we came together a bit more to appreciate what we’ve done for ourselves, not to check boxes on a quixotic journey to the Big Time.
This was a huge year for the arts. Memorial Hall and Music Hall reopened after major renovations, Ensemble Theater expanded, and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company debuted a brand new facility. ArtsWave raised $12.5 million, a record amount. UC’s College-Conservatory of Music celebrated its 150th anniversary.
Cincinnati’s fascination with sports and festivals only deepened. FC Cincinnati set more attendance records in its second season and made the playoffs again. Xavier men’s basketball advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight. UC football started a new era with Luke Fickell as head coach. The Bengals and Reds seem stuck in neutral but offer fan favorites like A.J. Green and Joey Votto. Big events had amazing crowds: Bockfest, the Opening Day parade, Flying Pig Marathon, Oktoberfest. Blink was a success, not only for the huge turnout but for the creative collaborations.
Even the divisive moments this year—Ray Tensing’s mistrial, Cincinnati’s mayoral race, the streetcar’s first anniversary—felt manageable, as if the city could agree to disagree without hating each other. Which, given the current political climate, counts as real progress.