There was a steady stream of people on and around Riverside’s Main Street pedestrian mall last Thursday night. On one block they learned about stem cell research…and Ebola….and Dementia & the Brain. The next block they listened to chamber music…and gospel…and jazz. On one end of the mall, they walked inside the Culver Center and listened to beatboxing…and watched contemporary dancers…and learned about spiders and their amazing silks from a “genius” grant-winning researcher. And on the other end they took abbreviated tours of The Historic Mission Inn Hotel and learned about Frank Miller founder of the hotel and the premier civic leader of his time who was significantly responsible for building the core of the city or heard the tale of Eliza Tibbets a founder of the city responsible for introducing the navel orange to the United States. Her ability to graft, nurture, and grow navel oranges sparked our early citrus industry and produced more money than the California Gold Rush.

Sometimes we forget that as a city innovation is in our DNA.

For one Autumn night, 10,000 Riversiders weaved through a maze of over 400 exhibitions and performances as part of the city’s Long Night of Arts & Innovation, our newest signature event inspired by our sister city Erlangen, Germany’s Long Night of Science. Erlangen sent a delegation to participate, including Mayor Florian Janik. He was one of the many people I talked to as I explored some of Riverside’s most innovative and creative offerings.

From a trio of freshman engineering students at CBU’s Bourns School of Engineering I learned how to observe Newton’s Law of Inertia by watching them film themselves dropping a slinky on a tray of LED lights with a camera that recorded at two thousand frames per second. Another engineering student convinced me to play his very rudimentary video game “Pong” as he explained how long it took to modify certain basic elements, like the color of the screen. He also informed me just how quickly a 3D printer carved the controller I was using to play the game. Then there was UCR Medical School faculty speaking on Tomorrow’s Doctors while RCC STEM faculty participated in the Curious Kids Zone. Moreno Valley College’s Gospel Choir sang on 5th Street while RCC’s Wind Ensemble provided a concert on 9th Street. The seven-hour celebration of creativity in both the arts and sciences reaffirmed my belief that our colleges and universities are some of our region’s most significant assets.

I spend quite a bit of time ranting about our problems and challenges, but the Long Night of Arts and Innovation deserves an enthusiastic rave. Events like these are what make our city unique…a place worth the investment of our time, talent, and knowledge.