PHOTOS: 5150′ Festival Eclipses Downtown Casper Saturday
Walking through David Street Station on Saturday, you are immediately taken in by all of the sights and sounds. There's a man operating a mechanical bull. There's a woman making balloon animals. A band is providing the soundtrack to the day while food trucks and beer gardens and all kinds of vendors peddle their goods. You are surrounded by friends, family, community members, and more who have all gathered to celebrate the summer, to celebrate the city, to celebrate the 5150'.
Then, you come across a station called '5150 Love Letters.' It's a giant wall, full of hanging envelopes. You take one down, open it, read it, and you're reminded of just how much you love this town and the people who inhabit it.
Four years ago, Casper was taken over by people from all around the world. There was a total solar eclipse, and Casper just happened to be one of the best spots in the world to see it.
Thousands upon thousands of people descended upon our town for a celebration...and that's exactly what they got. They came for the eclipse, but they stayed for The Gaslight Social, and Yellowstone Garage, and The Office Bar & Grill. And David Street Station.
David Street Station. Some will say that DSS was the beacon that brought all of these other businesses together; a lighthouse, so to speak. It started with the Eclipse Festival in 2017, and it has continued throughout the years. David Street Station hosts events throughout the year, whether it's a summer concert, a drive-in-type movie, or ice skating around a Christmas tree - David Street Station is the hub of activity in Downtown Casper all year long.
So it should come has no surprise that it would host the 5150' Festival, sponsored this year by Visit Casper.
"Four years ago today was the Wyoming Eclipse Festival," said Brook Kaufman, CEO of Visit Casper. "So we, as a community, said 'What can we do to honor that and build on that so that Casper has a festival of its own?'"
The answer was the 5150' Festival - an all day event featuring live music, food trucks, games, face painting, and more. 2021 marked the third year of the festival (it took 2020 off because, well, you know) and despite a few looming rain clouds, it went about as perfectly as one could hope. Casper, once again, came out in droves to celebrate Casper, to celebrate the community and, most importantly, to celebrate each other. That was the biggest goal of the 5150' Festival - to bring people together. And it did just that.
"We were ready to have a little bit of progressive development in our community," Kaufman stated. "The eclipse was the catalyst for a lot of projects and then you've seen things continue, whether it's events or whether it's what people are willing to invest in our downtown core. It kind of up-leveled our community in a sense and we said that we're ready for more kinds of events like these."
Visit Casper, the sponsor of this year's 5150' Festival, is all about creating opportunities for tourists and locals alike to fall in love with Casper. Events like these are perfect ways to get people talking about the town in which they live.
"One of the things that we really try to champion is that when you like where you live, you're more likely to invite your friends and family," Kaufman stated. "So, for us, the question becomes, 'How do we create a quality of life and a place that people love and are proud of?' That starts with our agency, but it also starts with every resident. So I tell people, 'Do what you can to like or love where you live and get people here to share it.'"
Those in attendance at the 5150' Festival certainly love where they live. That is evident by the multitude of smiles, the large amount of laughter, all of the dancing, and more. People, maybe just for one day, weren't thinking about politics or wars or differing views. Everyone agreed, at least for a little while, that it was okay to just have fun. It was okay to be happy.
One of the stations at the festival that absolutely promoted happiness was the '5150 Love Letters' station. It offered a chance for attendees to read an encouraging note from somebody and to write one themselves.
"We did this the first year of the festival, the first one after the eclipse," Kaufman said. "It was this idea of passing along something that you love about your place, but also just doing something nice for somebody else. So somebody in my office came up with the idea for 'love letters,' and we didn't even know if it would work but now it's something that people look forward to every year."
There's a reason for that, and it might be this: People are generally, genuinely, good. Most of us enjoy encouraging and empowering each other, especially in Casper. The 5150' Love Letters were proof of that. In fact, the entire day was proof of that. People were happy. People were kind. They danced, they laughed, they played. The 5150' Festival was a snapshot of the best of Casper, and it will continue to be for years to come.
You pull down the envelope from a wall of letters, and open it up. It says this: 'Things don't happen for a reason. Things happen; give them a reason. And no matter what, know that you are whole, you are worthy, you are loved.'
You put the letter in your back pocket and you begin writing your own, for somebody else. Then, you turn and face the stage of David Street Station and you smile. Your friends have been waiting for you.
Photos of the 5150' Festival can be seen below: