The beauty of flash mobs is when people come together in public places to entertain others. It’s usually the creative juices of theater company and dance studio executives to galvanize their troops and put on a 5-minute show set to music.
Train stations and outdoor plazas are typical locales of flash mobs due to their vast performance spaces and pedestrian-friendly hubs. Participants tell their friends to join expected tourists, and everyone has a good time.
It’s rare thousands of residents participate and rarer a city’s downtown on a Sunday afternoon is the backdrop. But what happened in Grand Rapids, Michigan in January 2011 was the exception.
See, the city of 188,000 was ranked by MainStreet, an internet publication, as one of 10 cities nationwide with a declining population between 2000 and 2010 and a further shrinking of residents under age 18. Based on those two data points alone, Grand Rapids made MainStreet’s list and the article was picked up by Newsweek.
The city reacted in the form of a lip dub to the tune of Don McLean’s “American Pie” and Roger Ebert joined 3.9 million YouTube viewers to praise the greatest music video ever made.
The video reeks of awesomeness.
Profiled by ABC News, the mayor is one of the featured singing guitar players. Nearly 5,000 volunteers fill the 9-minute video, ranging from police officers and firefighters to marching bands, motorcades, pillow-fighting kids, wedding guests, and a helicopter.
It’s impressive $40,000 were raised by donations — inspired by the MainStreet/Newsweek list. The city didn’t spend a dime and nobody advertised the event; after all, the media were among those donating.
The video went viral and we recognized the city was not dead.
Hat tip to Jamie Bradley of Sophwell for the find.