Events are the name of the game


Marni Marshall hits her stride leading GV downtown group

 Stacy Drake

 Nevada City Advocate 


For Marni Marshall, her role as executive director of the Grass Valley Downtown Association is the perfect fit after years of unwitting preparation.

Marni took on the role in September 2017 after the position had gone unfilled for a couple years except for an interim director, Lisa Swarthout, Program Specialist Marissa Hernandez and Market Manager Shanin Ybarrondo, as well as help from the GVDA board members and other local business owners offering to help with the many events the organization produces.

“That group kept the downtown events going in the absence of a full-time executive director, along with running their own businesses,” Marshall said. 

“They really stepped up to the plate.”

She now oversees all aspects of the downtown events that include the Thursday Night Markets in the summer, Cornish Christmas, 4th of July parade, St. Piran’s Day, Downtown Car Show, Foothills Celebration, Winterfest Tree Lighting, Safe Trick or Treat and the Downtown Holiday Market – and stay tuned for some new ones.

That’s a lot of events to produce and a lot of red tape on every one of them. If you think it’s routine to put on an event that’s been going on for years, you need to think again. 

Once all the permits and insurance are in place and the event has been approved annually by the city, police, fire and health departments, then comes the task of making sure all vendors have the same clearances with signed contracts to prove it. No small undertaking to provide good fun for the general public. 

But then, Marshall is all about providing fun and she has been proving it for years – 10 years at New Moon Cafe in Nevada City where she spent the last four years learning the art of pastry, she is a credentialed art teacher, she helped form The Movement Alliance Dance Theatre and performed with AirAligned aerial dance group, and most recently she spent eight years with the Center for the Arts where she was instrumental in producing the now annual Dancing with our Stars Event by recruiting dancers, coaching the recruits and performing in the event herself. She was also the house manager for all concert events and was heavily involved in the CFA summer camps, Open Studios Art Tour, gallery management and California WorldFest.

“When they asked me to begin as executive director for GVDA, I only had one stipulation and that was that I needed another three months to fulfill my commitment to CFA and see the WorldFest and the camps for that year to fruition before I could start full-time. Grass Valley said ‘yes’ and I was finally able to begin full time in September 2017,” Marshall said. 

“I love my job, it feels like I’m doing show production except there’s no music at the end of the day, no concert to sit back and watch,” she said with a chuckle. “I love all aspects of producing events and I get a lot of cooperation from the city staff, the police, the business owners, the property owners. We are all focused on making downtown Grass Valley a destination for businesses, locals and visitors.” 

Marshall is also involved in a behind-the-scenes branch of the GVDA – the Economic Vitality Committee, which is chaired by Nicole Arbaugh. The committee focuses on keeping the buildings in the downtown Grass Valley business district occupied. The committee includes a realtor who brings her real estate contract expertise to help facilitate negotiations, a financial manager and a downtown business owner. Together, they work with interested businesses wanting to move into the downtown business district of Grass Valley. 

“This group is very inspired,” Marshall said. 

A year ago there were several vacancies downtown, and today only a few still exist, and one of those is in negotiation now, she said.

“We still need to find someone for the former Pete’s Pizza Neal Street location around the corner from Gary’s Place. It’s such a great location. I just know they are out there somewhere.” 

Marshall’s newest proud accomplishment will be the arrival of a new sidewalk steam cleaner in November.

“I’m so excited to get this because it has been very difficult getting our sidewalks cleaned because we have to hire water reclamation companies from out of town to come to wash the sidewalks. No one’s really been willing to do that in the last couple of years due to other areas that need clean up from catastrophic wildfires or jobs in bigger cities. So, we buckled down and found a way to budget for our very own. I think everyone in downtown will be happy about this service we can now own and provide on a regular basis.

“I have been told your downtown is the smile on your city or town and any vacant buildings are like missing teeth – our main focus always is preserving our history and promoting a vibrant, diverse downtown. 

“The GVDA and its committees all work together to achieve and maintain a radiant Grass Valley smile for everyone to enjoy all the time.”

For more information about Marshall and the Grass Valley Downtown Association, call 530-272-8315 or visit

About the Photos: 

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Marni Marshall in her office on Neal Street in Grass Valley where she oversees the events of Downtown Grass Valley and fosters DTGV business growth from Walsh Street to Richardson and North and South School Streets to Hwy 49.

Photo by Stacy Drake

This page

Marni Marshall and GVDA program specialist Heather Haddock out for a stroll around downtown Grass Valley.

Photo by Stacy Drake