CINCINNATI -- The minds behind BLINK Cincinnati can’t believe the turnout.
Organizers of BLINK, the four-day light and art festival that stretched 20 city blocks, estimate 1 million people came to Downtown and Over-the-Rhine to gawk at designs projected on buildings, pose with illuminated sculptures and take in a different kind of city lights.
That makes it bigger than Riverfest, Oktoberfest and Taste of Cincinnati, according to the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.
On Sunday, the festival’s last day, organizer Dan Reynolds said the experience has been unbelievable.
"We couldn't have dreamed it really. We tried to dream it. All we can do is make it as good of a show as we can,” Reynolds said. “The one thing that's beyond your power, is, will people show up?"
The event was a “win for the entire city,” according to Capt. Mike Neville with the Cincinnati Police Department.
“We don’t look at how the police department is doing,” Neville said. “We really look at the city and the trickle down. We’re a piece of that. I’d say for our piece, we’re elated with how it’s turned out.”
Traffic was a huge challenge for officers. People were elbow-to-elbow on the sidewalks. The streetcars were packed full.
Officers had to improvise in order to patrol the 20-block festival. Neville said police officers used bikes and segways to cut through the tremendous crowd. Some officers even patrolled on foot.
Neville said there were no major incidents despite the massive crowd.
Organizer Steve McGowan said he hoped BLINK would allow people to explore the city in a way they never had before.
"You see people walk through the show. There's no arguing, there's no bickering, complaining,” Reynolds said. “They're experiencing art. They're having a moment with themselves that's opening some new thinking."
Togetherness was an intentional theme throughout much of the artwork, Reynolds said.
"We wanted to tell some stories about unity, coming together and the power of people coming together and finding common ground. That's what art does. That was a deliberate piece of the show,” Reynolds said.
In his 30 years with the police department, Neville said he has never seen an event so expansive.
“For the police department, we’ll manage whatever comes into the city,” Neville said. “We’ll all get to step back in a few days and say, ‘What did it bring, what did it do for us?’ We’re willing to step up to that challenge for years to come.”
That's good news for Reynolds and McGowan -- they said the show was so successful they will definitely be bringing the lights back to the Queen City.
"There's definitely a next. Count on it,” Reynolds said.
BLINK concluded Sunday evening at midnight.