Cassopolis has a number of excellent qualities and selling points but it has one truly unique asset that cannot be found anywhere else in the world and is currently highly underutilized- the birthplace of kitty litter.
In 1947 Edward Lowe made a discovery, created an entire industry and forever changed cat ownership. While on the surface it might seem like just another underappreciated household item there are a few reasons why this is extremely significant and should absolutely be celebrated and leveraged into something big for his hometown community:
People will travel and pay for unique experiences. This trend is extremely strong with millennials (who spend more on travel than traditional investments), however experiential and theme travel has been on the rise across all ages.
There are an estimated 70-90 million cats living in U.S. households. While experts disagree on the number, it is safe to say there are as many, if not more cats in the U.S. than children under the age of 18. (In 2017 there were 73.3 million children in the U.S. according to the U.S. Census American Community Survey)
The Edward Lowe Foundation is headquartered in Cassopolis with a mission to support entrepreneurs. Celebrating this legacy in the community could be an excellent partnership with the foundation, highlight their work, and inspire other entrepreneurs as well.
Given this incredibly unique history that is still relevant today more than ever in a cat fanatic internet culture, we recommend Cassopolis rebrand Pioneer days to CATSopolis Days. This multi-day festival concept has strong potential to become a major economic driver for the Village and local businesses alike as well as inspire a new generation of volunteers to step up and lead this new, exciting event.
This name and concept itself is not new as it was a local event for at least a few years to honor Ed Lowe as noted in the New York Times (1998) and the Herald Palladium (2000). While the trademark for ‘Edward Lowe Catsopolis Festival’ expired in 2008, a partnership between the Village and the Edward Lowe Foundation would make for a strong foundation for a successful event and benefit all parties involved.
If you are not already a cat enthusiast, you may not know that there are cat conventions, cat shows, cat expos, and even cat film festivals all around the nation (including Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, and Minnesota in the Midwest). Fortunately, no such event has popped up in Michigan, meaning that CATSopolis has room to make a big splash.
The biggest, most iconic cat-centric event dedicated to all things feline is CatCon hosted every August in Los Angeles. This event is both an expo and symposium, that engages, educates, entertains, featuring the latest in groundbreaking products and ideas for cats and their people. Since its inception in 2015, the annual two-day immersive experience has welcomed 78,000 attendees, and has been featured in over 1,000 outlets around the world, including The New York Times, BuzzFeed, Reuters, Vanity Fair, and Glamour. As crazy as it sounds, CATSopolis could greatly benefit from and entice an audience from CatCon enthusiasts who might be located in the midwest or looking for a similar but different experience.
Even those who don’t have cats seem to enjoy cat-related content. ThoughtCatalog has described cats as the “unofficial mascot of the Internet,” as videos of cats perform incredibly well on the internet. Potential attendees include not only those with cats, but those who enjoy watching them, and those who are just curious.
CATSopolis could incorporate dozens of events over several days if desired. Alchemy has begun by imagining some sponsored events that could take place, incorporating the lakes and the downtown area, so that attendees can see what Cassopolis has to offer while enjoying the festivities. HOVER OVER THE IMAGES TO READ MORE.
Use a vacant space or enter into an agreement with a local business to setup a pop-up cat café. Partner with the Cass County Humane Society to place adoptable cats in the space for attendees to interact with and charge a small fee at the door or require each guest to make a purchase.
Kid-dy Litter Box
Mark off areas of the beach at Stone Lake for the “Kid-dy litter” box. Children can create sandcastles, sand sculptures, or just play in the sand. Cat-shaped buckets can be provided, in keeping with the theme.
A cat convention invites pet product vendors and craftsmen to a site to sell their goods to attendees. Local vendors of non-pet products and food vendors should be highlighted as well. Attendees should be encouraged to bring their cats if friendly, like at CatCon.
Photo courtesy of Monica Almeida/The New York Times
A small cat show could be part of the event, with locals and attendees entering their housecats into a show for a small fee; local judges could declare winners with traditional cat judging standards (height, gait, posture, etc.) or include funnier, more entertaining titles instead (“most orange,” “fluffiest,” “most scared-y cat,” etc.)
Cat Fashion Show
There are any number of ways to host a cat fashion show – cat-inspired fashion for humans, fashion for cats, cat costumes for humans, costumes for cats, cat-inspired makeup, face painting, etc.
Public Art Installation
The inaugural CATSopolis event could coincide with the installation of a public art piece that is cat or kitty litter-related, such as a mural or a sculpture. It’s even more ideal if the public can participate in the creation of the piece.
Invite artists (especially cat/animal-themed art) to purchase a booth and display their artwork for sale, consider a variety of price points and activities including possibly a cartoonist who could create portraits of pets live with their owners.
Set up an area with cat-themed props (ears, tails, etc.) and posters with “cat sayings” for attendees to take photos with, branded with the CATSopolis name
Honoring Ed Lowe’s invention of using clay in kitty litter, attendees could pay a small fee ($10-20 to cover supplies) to enter a clay sculpture contest with a cat theme.
Essay or Invention
Work with the local high school to students submit essays with an entrepreneurial concept; work with Ed Lowe Foundation to secure a scholarship for the winners. Another option would be to host a cat (or pet) themed invention convention inviting youth to create displays with their best product idea for pet owners.
Other Ideas to consider
- Celebrity endorsement: though it may seem like a long-shot, reaching out to celebrities is an easy way to gain media attention about CATSopolis, if successful. Consider contacting John Stamos, who played Jesse Katsopolis on “Full House” and “Fuller House,” to either attend the event or record a short promotional video. He has worked with PETA previously as an animal lover.
- Another excellent marketing option is to engage influencers – reach out to social media influencers in the area with a strong following. In partnership with the chamber, create a package including a free ticket to the event in return for photos and a tagged post or blog from them about their experience.
Branding + Marketing
One of the most important parts of creating an event is creating a brand that conveys the tone and atmosphere of the event. Alchemy has created some initial options for the CATSopolis brand, presented below:
Potential Logo Options
- Women, aged 21-50;
- People who own cats, enjoy cat videos, and/or purchase cat-related paraphernalia;
- People in the Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Special focus on Michigan, Illinois, Indiana.
- Targeted ads on Instagram and Facebook for people who like or follow CatCon and other cat fan pages.
Potential Event Mockups/Promotions
Create Event Committee
WHO: CATSopolis Event Committee
HOW: Create CATSopolis event committee, consisting of local stakeholders and at least one representative from the Ed Lowe Foundation
Excellent opportunity to engage with younger leadership
Secure/confirm approval of naming rights to “CATSopolis” Work with the Ed Lowe Foundation to secure the naming rights of the festival without copyright infringement.
Event Planning / build partnerships
WHO: CATSopolis Event Committee
HOW: Advertise the big change locally as well! You want to build a buzz in town. Promote on all local social media channels and news outlets.
Create social media accounts for CATSopolis.
Contact pet product vendors and map out booths
Contact food vendors, local vendors
Contact vacant space owner or owner of existing café for use of the space as a cat café for a day
Recruit local volunteers for judges of the cat show, festival workers to work photo booth, welcome center, etc.
Partner with groups like the local Humane Society and/or the local shelter to potentially host a pop-up cat cafe with adoptions.
Host the event
WHO: CATSopolis Event Committee
HOW: Pre-event Community paint party – paint storefront windows of vacant spaces to remove the image of empty buildings and add to the
Hire a photographer to capture the event