To bring BLINK light show back to NKY, cities asked to contribute $1 per resident to fundraising effort


The mayors of the two largest cities in Kenton County, Covington and Independence, have signaled their willingness to contribute toward the fundraising effort of BLINK, an interactive light and art festival in Cincinnati.

BLINK was last held in Cincinnati in 2019, and included parts of downtown Covington drawing significant crowds to the light show.

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Julie Kirkpatrick, president and CEO of MeetNKY, along with Justin Brookhart, executive director of BLINK, are leading the fundraising effort to bring the festival back to the region. While Cincinnati is set to host the show again, funds need to be raised to include Northern Kentucky this go-round.

If each Northern Kentucky city contributes $1 for every resident, organizers say, the area will be able ultimately to raise the $2 million needed to bring BLINK back to this side of the river in 2022.

This year, BLINK is scheduled for Oct. 13 through 16.

“We’re working hand-in-hand with Julie Kirkpatrick and her team at MeetNKY for our fundraising efforts in the Northern Kentucky region,” Brookhart said. “We’re really trying to think of all opportunities that might make sense for us.”

Brookhart said he met with municipalities across Northern Kentucky to bring awareness to the fundraising effort.

“This is just a spectacular event for Greater Cincinnati,” Independence Mayor Chris Reinersman told LINK nky. “I’m a big believer in regionalism. I think it’s right that we all step up and contribute.”

Reinersman is chair of the Kenton County Mayors Group and announced his support for BLINK fundraising in Northern Kentucky during a recent meeting.

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“To me, the benefit is we’re investing in an event our residents enjoy,” Reinersman said, “a real regional effort that sets Greater Cincinnati apart.”

At Covington’s city commission meeting earlier this month, Mayor Joe Meyer announced Covington’s potential willingness to help fund the project.

Meyer said BLINK funding would be a permissible use of the city’s federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money because it’s aiding the tourism, travel and hospitality industries of the region.

Meyer and Reinersman hope that by Covington and Independence throwing their weight behind fundraising, they can help persuade other cities across Northern Kentucky to contribute as well.

“Our participation in this will be a strong request to other communities,” Meyer said.

Covington and Independence have populations of 41,000 and 29,000, respectively, so they would contribute a total of $70,000 toward BLINK.

“We recognize that as larger cities, if we’re able to put this forward, we hope that the smaller cities will for the same reason,” Reinersman said. “Primarily, their residents will be enjoying this event, and secondarily, the regional impact is going to benefit everyone.”

Reinersman said he recognizes that while Independence will not be a primary beneficiary of hosting BLINK, the economic impact the festival will have on the region can’t be understated.

Dayton Mayor Ben Baker told LINK that the 2022-23 budget has just been approved and there was not a line item for BLINK in it. So the city won’t be able to allocate funds toward the festival.

But, Baker said, “We here in Dayton are huge fans of BLINK and the spotlight it brings into this region, and are excited to see it’s return.”

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The festival is a major tourist attraction to the region. BLINK attracted 1.3 million visitors across the region over a four-day span that year, organizers said.

“The fact that there’s so much awareness and so much interest, there’s not anywhere I can go where you mention BLINK and people aren’t aware of it. That’s pretty amazing for a free public art event,” Brookhart said.