Turners’ Alley in downtown Milwaukee granted funds to host holiday pop-up event

$1,000 grant to fund event equipment, lighting, greenery

Turners' Alley hosted its first pop-up event in October. Photo credit: Wendy Schreier.

Turners’ Alley in downtown Milwaukee will transform into holiday alley for two days in December, thanks to a grant from AARP Wisconsin.

Milwaukee Downtown, BID#21‘s proposal for the outdoor pop-up event, known as ‘Santa Camp,’ was selected out of dozens of submissions across the state for AARP’s $1,000 ‘Small Dollar, Big Impact’ grant, which is awarded to new low-cost projects aimed at improving the community and supporting local businesses. 

Set for Dec. 17 and 18, Santa Camp will feature an ice bar operated by Milwaukee-based Camp Bar, hot apple cider, hot cocoa, popcorn from Muskego-based Pop’s Kettle Corn and MarketPlace, and festive photo-ops.

The BID is hosting the event as part of the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival, which runs Nov. 18 to Jan. 1. It’s also part of recent efforts to activate and drive foot traffic to Turners’ Alley, located at 1029 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive (formerly N. Old World 3rd St.) between The Spice House and Deer Camp. Last month, the historic cobblestone alley hosted its first event, Pop’s Pop-Up Pumpkin Patch. The event’s success inspired the BID to organize another one.

“From tables on loan to in-kind decorating and cleaning services, we were able to rally our community partners to transform the alley in just a matter of two weeks,” said Gabriel Yeager, BID downtown environment specialist, in the grant application. “Given the success and popularity of the event, we are excited to plan for a winter extension of our pilot program.”

October’s pop-up event at Turners’ Alley. Photo credit: Wendy Schreier

The $1,000 grant will be used to purchase supplies and equipment, such as blankets for beer garden tables, benches that can be reused during future events, and temporary seasonal greenery, like pine trees.

In addition, it will help fund temporary lighting to illuminate the alley during the event. The BID is currently exploring “long-term lighting improvements” for Turners’ and other alleys in downtown Milwaukee, said Yeager.

“We’re proud to partner with AARP Wisconsin as we pilot a new placemaking initiative to activate downtown alleys into vibrant urban experiences with our community,” said Beth Weirick, CEO of Milwaukee Downtown. 

Since launching its ‘Small Dollar, Big Impact’ grant program last year, AARP Wisconsin has awarded funds to 22 recipients, including Milwaukee’s East Side BID #20, for its East Side Art Lot project, and Milwaukee Riverworks Development Corporation, for installation of plaques on artist murals along the Beerline Recreational Trail.

“These grants are exactly what the name describes – short-term, low-cost solutions that could have remarkable impacts on the shaping of neighborhoods and cities,” said Darrin Wasniewski, associate state director of community outreach at AARP Wisconsin. “There are so many great ideas and proposals for making life better in communities across Wisconsin. We know how impactful $1,000 can be. This is our way of extending some seed money to get these projects off the ground.”

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Maredithe Meyer covers restaurants, retail, tourism, and sports and entertainment. She joined BizTimes in 2015, previously as an intern reporter. She earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University in 2017. When she's not on the job, Maredithe coaches field hockey and loves exploring her favorite city on earth, Milwaukee.

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