In 1979, Swiss Bear Inc., a 501 (c) (3), was established to spearhead and coordinate the revitalization of New Bern’s downtown and redevelopment of its waterfront. Since then, more than $300 million has been invested in public and private rehabilitation and new construction projects. By emphasizing New Bern’s historic assets and waterfront, downtown New Bern has experienced positive economic growth and is recognized as an award-winning success story.
The festival was created by Swiss Bear as one of many revitalization strategies to bring people back to the deteriorated downtown when the elected officials and community leaders joined forces to reverse the downward trend. The festival grew as the city grew and both became tourist destinations in their own right.
Thanks to the support of the City, media, area businesses and hundreds of volunteers, what was originally a small one day festival that filled vacant spaces and empty lots is an event that has continued to grow and showcase New Bern’s restored historic downtown and waterfront, attracting thousands of visitors and creating an economic impact of millions of dollars.
As the needs of the City have changed Swiss Bear’s mission has broadened to include the Five Points area and the Broad Street and Pollock Street corridors.