RACINE — For a while Megan Dorsey, 26, had been hearing from her friends that they only fun things to do involved either going to Milwaukee or Chicago.
Dorsey, who studies art history at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, felt frustrated that other young adults, like her, didn’t view Racine as a place for them.
“This is ridiculous — we have how many colleges in a 10-mile radius? So many young people. I’m just going to start something,” Dorsey said. “I made a logo that night. I made a Facebook (page) and Instagram.”
Just like that, What’s Up Racine was born on a cold December night. Already just over a month old, the Facebook page has almost 500 likes (www.facebook.com/whatsupracine) and the Instagram account (@whatsupracine) has more than 200 followers. The group also has a website, www.whatsupracine.com.
“It really took off before anyone could say ‘oh, that’s a cool idea,’ ” Dorsey said. “There’s so much potential, I just feel like it’s not getting tapped into at all.”
What’s Up Racine is a group intended to bring “millennials and Gen X’ers” together and highlight the Racine businesses that appeal to them.
Although it’s still in the early stages, Dorsey hopes to host a few events in the near future to gather young adults and be a group that is unlike anything currently being offered.
Hopes to draw others
“We want to attract and retain millennials,” Dorsey said. “Events that nurture socializing without the stuffy, network, business-y vibe. We like it to organically happen.”
Currently, Dorsey said there are a few volunteers who will be meeting to talk about officially introduce “What’s Up Racine” to the community in a way that’s different than, say, Young Professionals of Racine.
“We’re a more carefree space where you don’t have to be a young professional, you can work in a bar, you can be an artist,” Dorsey said, adding that there are several groups that are trying to help improve Racine. “I just want to build upon that by hosting a huge event that would draw young people within the Milwaukee and Chicago corridor.”
Dorsey hopes that once What’s Up Racine starts operating and bringing in millennials for events, more people will see Racine as a place for them.
“There’s an abundance of empty storefronts just waiting for owners to open up their own bookstore or café,” Dorsey said. “I think we do have resources here (in Racine) that we can utilize, but I want to make sure that they cater to millennial interests.”
The intention is to connect people with similar interests in an informal setting.
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“I don’t want people to think, ‘oh she’s just here to bring people in just to party,’ ” Dorsey said. “That’s not what it is. Through those fun events, it helps cultivate relationships and community.”
Dorsey’s parents own an antique business and that background helped her create What’s Up Racine.
“My parents were really supportive,” said Dorsey, who grew up in Illinois. “They’re small business owners and they pretty much taught me, you got to take the initiative and make something your own.”
Dorsey works part-time at Lilly Pad Gallery in Milwaukee’s Third Ward and is planning to start an internship with Gallery on 16th, located at 1405 16th St., on the second floor.
Currently What’s Up Racine operates out of 410 Main Street under the umbrella of the Racine County Eye, a Racine news website.
Denise Lockwood, owner of Racine County Eye, said she really clicked with Dorsey.
“She’s got an energy and she wants to see things happen here,” Lockwood said. “She wants other people to fall in love with their city as well.”
Dorsey will write blogs for Racine County Eye regarding What’s Up Racine and help contribute to the upcoming newsletter “Beer 30” about Racine nightlife and entertainment.
“I hope it brings people into the community conversation,” Lockwood said. “I think people are really wanting something like this … Megan is really refreshing, especially with millennials.”
As a mother of a millennial, Lockwood said the community needs to work with this generation to help them.
“It’s hard to watch them struggle, especially as they make those moves into their next lives,” Lockwood said.
Dorsey has high hopes for What’s Up Racine, and said she does feel a little pressure.
“It really took off quicker than expected,” Dorsey said. “I want it to become so good that we’re almost not needed anymore. I want things to flow in. Like the people who responded, I want the businesses to flow in. I want the positivity to flow in and young people to flow in.”