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As Blink Grew, So Did The Crowds

Bill Rinehart
The Contemporary Arts Center was one of 39 projection mapping locations during Blink 2019.

Updated: Oct. 16, 4:47 p.m.

The second Blink festival was bigger than the first, expanding into Kentucky with more murals, and more projection mapping. It also attracted more people, according to organizers. The Cincinnati Chamber says they estimate between 1.25 and 1.5 million people came out during the four nights of the art and light festival stretching from Covington to Over-the-Rhine.

Brendon Cull with the Chamber said earlier in the week estimating crowd size is more of an art than a science.

"We're still pulling some data. We're looking at all of the measures we use. Ultimately when you have people spread across 30 blocks you have to rely on some publicly available information and do our best. We run Oktoberfest and Taste (of Cincinnati) so we're looking at benchmarks there."

Cull says a study on Blink's economic impact will take longer to finish. The first festival, in 2017, drew an estimated 1 million people over the four nights.

While a complete economic breakdown is still underway, the Convention and Visitors Bureau says Downtown hotel rooms were nearly full Friday and Saturday nights. Cull says the Bureau had a campaign to draw people from out of the market.

"There's tons of anecdotal data. I talked to people who were from Sacramento, and people who were from Washington, D.C., and New York and global visitors. That's a win for our region. It puts us on the map globally as an arts and culture city," he says.

Credit Bill Rinehart / WVXU
Some Cincinnati streets, like Elm in Over-the-Rhine, were closed for Blink.

"Blink was designed to bring communities together. This year we literally bridged our differences in a bigger, better and brighter way," said Tim Maloney, president and CEO of the The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, a founding partner of Blink.

Covington's city manager says he was nervous going into Blink, as the festival expanded into Covington for the first time. David Johnston says Covington has never experienced anything like it before.

"That's far more than Riverfest. It was just like, 'How do we manage this mass of humanity in a safe way?' The people policed themselves extremely well. They respected people's space and property and made sure that everybody had an enjoyable time."

He says Covington's leaders will have a debrief with Cincinnati to see what went well and what could be improved.

Cull says the teams that put Blink together are going to rest before looking at a future event.

This story was edited to add attendance estimates and related comments.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.