Inspirational Evening Helps Identity Project Polish Redding’s Reputation

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A full-fledged amphitheater next to the Sacramento River and repurposing historic signs into public art displays were two of the 10 Redding City Identity Project ideas unveiled Thursday before a jampacked Cascade Theatre audience.

A collaborative effort between the Redding Chamber of Commerce and its Forward Redding Foundation, the Identity Project is an effort to burnish Redding’s image and improve its reputation by identifying and building upon the community’s best attributes.

Thursday’s event, which featured an inspirational keynote address by bestselling author John O’Leary and a surprise appearance by former San Francisco Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt, revealed the first 10 ideas targeted for action by 2020. The ten were selected from more than 750 submitted through

John O’Leary, right, greets fans after his keynote address.

Also informing the Identity Project are comments from 2,440 residents who responded to a citywide survey. Among the findings from the survey, “disapprove,” “unsafe” and “disappointed” were among the most frequent answers when respondents were asked their impression of present-day Redding. Also interesting: Some 68 percent of respondents said they get all their news about the community from word-of-mouth and Facebook.

While the bulk of the survey highlighted Redding’s affordability, recreational opportunities and family friendly attributes, Identity Project committee member April LaFrance said it was important to also consider the challenges facing the project.

“I’ve never been prouder of Redding,” said Jake Mangas, president and CEO of the Redding chamber and the evening’s emcee. Mangas said that pride was based in part on how the community responded to the Carr Fire and the resurgence in downtown as represented by construction projects totaling in excess of $200 million.

Jake Mangas addresses a capacity crowd at the Cascade Theatre.

In addition to the amphitheater and the historic signs, the 10 ideas included an “umbrella alley” public art installation; a local business “passport” program; a concerted effort to improve Redding’s online reputation; a downtown mural; itineraries by locals on how to schedule an awesome day in Redding; live street music; digital ambassadors; and a city messaging (talking points) campaign.

An additional 10 ideas will be selected later this month. Residents are urged to continue submitting ideas for the next two weeks. Funding, through a host of sponsors, is already in place for the first 10 ideas, LaFrance said.

O’Leary, the keynote speaker, used anecdotes from his own riveting story—as a 9-year-old, he suffered burns over 100 percent of his body in a house fire and was not expected to make it through the night—to encourage audience members to appreciate their own blessings and work to ensure tomorrow is better than today.

“There is a lot right with Redding and we’re going to celebrate it,” O’Leary said.

A native of St. Louis, Mo., O’Leary said his long recovery in a burn center was aided by repeated visits from legendary St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck. Buck, who was dying from lung cancer, gifted O’Leary the crystal baseball he was presented with upon enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The baseball theme continued when Mangas introduced Affeldt, who was a member of the San Francisco Giants when the team won world championships in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Affeldt said the team he joined in 2009 had no identity but by 2010 the band of “misfits” had begun to trust and believe in each other to the point that they established an identity as winners.

Former San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt.

Redding, too, has the resources and residents to become a champion city, Affeldt said. “You guys are awesome. I want to believe in you.” Affeldt said he’s been a frequent visitor to Redding and particularly enjoys fly fishing for rainbow trout on the Sacramento River near the Sundial Bridge.

The 2014 World Series baseball gifted to the city of Redding.

He concluded his remarks by presenting the city with an official World Series baseball signed by the 2014 Giants team members. (Affeldt was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series; the decisive game against Kansas City was notable for the five innings of relief pitching turned in by Madison Bumgarner.)

Jake Mangas with the ball signed by the 2014 World Champion San Francisco Giants.

To submit an idea for the Redding City Identity Project “20 Ideas by 2020” program, visit

Jon Lewis
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at
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11 Responses

  1. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    A river amphitheater would do wonders for Redding. I remember how the Mosquito Serenade in Anderson began with local bands playing on a six inch riser at Anderson River Park. We would join other residents with our ice chests to enjoy evening music by the Sac. Harry Sipple would work the crowd with his donation can. Eventually an amphitheater was built and the Mosquito Serenade turned into a large event with a food court and traffic jams. Other groups also rented the amphitheater.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      I saw noted folk singer Greg Brown (hubby of equally great Iris DeMent) when the Mosquito Serenade was promoting at its peak. It was kind of a shock to get to see him for free.

    • Avatar CODY says:

      There is one, just upstream from the Sundial. The reggae fest they have there is very popular.

      • Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

        That’s exactly the spot that they are talking about. Right now its basically just a concrete slab with electrical outlets that sometimes work. What they’re talking about doing is revamping it to turn it into a really cool spot that can be better used.

  2. Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

    My favorite idea by far was the one about creating an art installation for the old neon signs that have come down over the years. While it’s probably far too late for the old Safeway sign (RIP old Safeway), I hope the Clover Club and Gene’s Drive-In signs have been kept safe. Those icons deserve a place in this town. We toss away far too much of our history.

  3. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    All are interesting ideas, but I fear that until the numbers of criminals are incarcerated for longer than a couple of hours and the sidewalks and lawns are freed of squatters, Redding’s identity will remain tarnished rather than burnished.

  4. R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

    I have some great ideas about improving Redding’s online reputation.

  5. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Excellent article Jon. The opportunities for local artists sound intriguing.

  6. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    Great article, Jon. I’m glad I read again after having a cup of coffee. Before coffee, I read the headline and thought, “Wow, Redding has a Polish community?”

  7. Avatar Russell Hunt says:

    We have an amphitheater at Shasta College. One was made on the original Sacramento River Trail. One was back on Sulphur Creek. Nobody used them. Can’t sell booze at Shasta College. City of RDG requires a $1 million insurance policy when using their facilities with alcohol. Anderson River Park has one and it is successful. Projects that are unneeded don’t necessarily help Redding’s image. Getting the homeless of the streets is the real issue.