Summer is almost here, and with it comes the real test for Main Street Square.

The public plaza has been open since October 2011, but this year marks the first summer season for the $6.5 million investment in downtown Rapid City.

The square’s executive director, Megan Karbowski, is ready for the challenge.

“It’s going to be very busy and very fun,” Karbowski said. “It’s going to give something to the community to come and enjoy the majority of the week.”

In Karbowski’s mind, it all starts May 12, the first Saturday of the new downtown farmers’ market.

Many weeks, the market will be paired with Music at the Square, a showcase of local musicians.

Other weeks, it will run in conjunction with special events like the Art & Wine Festival, scheduled for June 23-24.

The myriad of events planned for the summer range from free exercise classes on Friday mornings to the city’s Independence Day celebration and the Cruiser Car Show and Street Fair.

The square will also partner up with a number of community organizations for events, including Leadership Rapid City, which will host a weekly outdoor movie night for families, starting June 4.

“Our tag line is fun squared. If we can offer a little bit of fun for everybody, we’ll be serving our purpose well,” Karbowski said. “We want to be that place that people come to even if it’s just a bag lunch and sitting and enjoying the weather with their friends.”

The idea for Main Street Square was born more than four years ago, the recommendation of a national tourism expert who said that Rapid City needed a gathering place and focal point to draw people downtown.

Plans were unveiled more than a year later in December 2009 by Destination Rapid City, a nonprofit economic development group formed to encourage revitalization downtown.

In June 2010, city voters approved the creation of a Business Improvement District downtown to help cover the plaza’s ongoing maintenance and in December, ground was broken at the site of a city-owned parking lot at Sixth and Main streets.

Construction was funded in a joint effort between the city of Rapid City and Destination Rapid City, with the city providing $3.5 million in Vision funds and Destination chipping in the rest in private donations.

The square is home to an ice skating rink in the winter and a grassy area and interactive fountains in the summer.

Karbowski said she’s thrilled with what she’s seen so far.

In the first season of ice skating, the square sold 19,000 daylong passes, making more than $100,000 in income. Square officials had predicted they would make $86,000. That success helped the square close 2011 with a $35,514 revenue surplus.

“Businesses have had lots of positive comments about their clientele and the increase in the foot traffic through their stores,” Karbowski said. “We just couldn’t be happier.

“It’s been a great six months,” she said. “We just have to continue to adapt and keep that positivity out there. I think we’ll have just as amazing of a summer season.”

Contact Emilie Rusch at 394-8453 or emilie.rusch@rapidcityjournal.com.

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