Lani Star Schweiger is the Main Street Wilmington Program Director and the Senior Brand and Marketing Manager at Downtown Visions, as well as this week’s #PeopleofWilmDE! Read her story below:
“I have lived in the City of Wilmington since I was 3 years old; I grew up in the Triangle neighborhood, and have worked Downtown at Downtown Visions since 2008. I am definitely a city girl at heart.
My family is from Wilmington. My grandparents lived on Baynard Boulevard and I grew up a few blocks away from them. My parents moved to Florida briefly and that’s where I was born but we soon came back to Delaware and I grew up living in the Triangle neighborhood. I went to public school in the City and even walked to school when I attended Warner Elementary. I attended A.I. du Pont High School and graduated from the University of Delaware. After getting married, my husband and I moved to the Forty Acres neighborhood, where he grew up, and we still reside here with our two daughters and our bunny Gizmo, who you can follow on Instagram at @gizmobunnylove. I work in Downtown Wilmington for Wilmington’s Downtown Business Improvement District also known as Downtown Visions. Most people know us for our great Ambassadors, dressed in black and yellow that patrol Downtown seven days a week. I love my job, my co-workers and working with so many great community leaders and fantastic small business owners, that truly make Downtown Wilmington a vibrant and energetic community.
I grew up walking Downtown with my mom. We would often grab lunch together and go shopping at Joy Trimming (now closed). My mother always told me stories about how exciting it was to be Downtown when she was a young girl. She loved going to the Warner Theatre with her friends, eating sweets at Federal Bakery and sundaes at the Woolworths counter. Those stories made me want to continue that feeling for other generations to experience and make memories in Downtown Wilmington. I have always loved Downtown Wilmington. I love the deep history and amazing architecture and caring and advocating for this City has always been a personal passion of mine and now it’s also my professional passion.
When it comes to Wilmington events, I love so many it’s hard to pick one favorite. My top event picks are the St. Anthony’s Italian Festival, the Greek Festival, Ladybug Music Festival, the Downtown Brew Fest, the Wilmington Grand Prix, the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, the Brandywine Arts Festival and the Polish Festival. My favorite attractions are Brandywine Park including the Zoo and Josephine Gardens, shows at The Grand and The Queen, Rockford Park, Art Loop, Alapocas Trails, the Jaycees Christmas Parade and baseball and fireworks at the Blue Rocks games.
Growing up in an Italian family in Wilmington we always attended the St. Anthony’s Italian Festival. I have the best memories attending that festival with my family and watching the procession as the saints were pushed through the City streets. When I was younger my favorite memories were watching the fireworks and the high-wire act as the couple drove on a mini bike across a thin cable high above North Scott Street. I was always in awe of their performance as a young child. Still to this day I love taking my kids to enjoy the rides, games, live music and all the amazing food we get to eat during the weeklong event. As you walk around you get to catch up with so many old friends, it’s like a mini reunion. It marks the official start of summer and we always have a great time.
I love where I live, I love how close we are to other major cities, I love the variety of food and entertainment, I love all the community events including the various cultural festivals, music events, outdoor music in the parks and all of the outdoor parks and activities we have that are all so convenient. I love that so many places I visit are within walking distance and I love meeting new people when I am out and about in the City.
I totally think you should love where you live. I help coordinate many Downtown events including Curbside Wilmington. I also love my neighborhood, the rich history, the connections and the sense of community pride. I love all the parks that are within walking distance of my neighborhood, especially Stapler Park which I consider an extension of my backyard for my kids to enjoy since we don’t have a big yard. We not only enjoy playing at the park but we take care of it too. Several years ago I wanted to do more to maintain our park so I created the Friends of Stapler Park Facebook page that I run so I could share pictures of the park for people to enjoy and get neighbors involved in community clean-ups and events. We just had a community event this month where we spread mulch, painted and picked up litter. The Wilmington Fire Department Engine 5 also came out to spray the mulch and they even let the local kids help out. It was a great community event and one of the many reasons why I love my neighborhood.
Most people I engage with on the streets are extremely respectful of each other. All my neighbors, I have been in contact with, are smart and courteous. Overall I feel that people are safely doing what is best for them in order to get back to a sense of normalcy. I think it is especially important for our kids to get back to living life pre-Covid and interacting with their friends and peers like they used to.
I am hopeful for things to get back to normal. To see smiling faces on the streets when I’m out, for kids to be back in school five days a week and to have people working in their offices and strolling around Downtown on their lunch breaks. I’m hopeful for outdoor events and festivals that we missed out on this past year to start back up, like the Ladybug Music Festival and the Greek Festival. I’m hopeful for new ideas that bring us extended outdoor dining, like Curbside Wilmington and Dining on Delaware to continue to happen each year. And I’m hopeful for new changes to our City including improvements to our park systems and public spaces, like Rodney Square that is being brought back to life with some incredibly innovative updates.
A great part of my job is working with Downtown businesses. Downtown Visions has a Façade Improvement Program that offers matching grants to our businesses. Our grants can help them revive an old façade or create an inviting interior space. Not only do these grants help our business owners but they create a more exciting and visually appealing Downtown. I am proud to have worked with over 70 businesses and given out over 100 Façade Improvement grants to Downtown Wilmington businesses to bring new life to these beautiful buildings.
Wilmington is the perfect place to live and work. You can walk or bike to work, there are so many transportation options if you want to travel to other nearby cities, we are lucky to live so close to the beaches and we have tons of beautiful parks to hike, bike and enjoy with our kids and pets. Wilmington truly has it all! Sometimes you just need to get outside and explore your surroundings. You must surprise yourself and find something really cool that you never knew about before.”