One Spark serves up good times, good food

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Order's up in downtown Jacksonville!

That's what you're likely to hear at a number of businesses in the city's urban core right now. Almost all of them are seeing a surge in customers because of One Spark 2014.

The crowd-funding festival is expected to attract at least 150,000 people from all over the globe. They will spend five days absorbing a phenomenal amount of hard work, innovation and creativity.

Creators set up exhibits and pitch their ideas to festival-goers in hopes of scoring thousands of dollars in potential private investments and/or crowd-funds. Ideas include art, technology, music, performance, food and exercise.

Existing businesses in the downtown area have the chance to serve as official One Spark creative spaces.

Jennifer O'Donnell, the general manager of Chamblin's Uptown on N. Laura Street, said the festival is like Christmas in April.

"We absolutely love it," she said.

Last year, during One Spark's inaugural event, O'Donnell said the coffee shop and bookstore increased sales by 50%. She expects to do that at least that this year if not more.

She said, "It's really fun. It's exciting to see people getting energetic about being downtown."

But it's not just brick and mortar shops that are benefiting from One Spark.

The festival has a food village that's made up entirely by mobile restaurants and food trucks from the First Coast.

"I had a good experience last year. It's really, really good," said Araceli Adkins, who runs Cely's Famous Food.

Adkins only serves up her authentic Filipino dishes at festivals and community events, and said One Spark is the perfect opportunity for people to get a taste of diverse options.

"Everybody has good food, not only me of course," she laughed.

The other benefit of One Spark, businesses owners feel, is what it does for the image and reputation of downtown.

Adkins said it's encouraging to see the area thriving.

"I think it helps a lot. People are invited to come downtown. I think it's a big hit," she said.

O'Donnell added, "I'm very passionate about this town and I like to see the growth. I feel very honored and humbled to be able to watch younger kids coming and making this happen."

The hope for those whose livelihoods depend up the urban core is the enthusiasm and support will continue well beyond One Spark ends.

"I really believe the vibrancy of a city depends on what the downtown does," O'Donnell said.


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