On a good day in downtown Minneapolis, you can hear Nicollet Mall before you can see it.

The first notes of "Ghost Riders in the Sky," mixed with snowflakes and carried on the gusty wind, reverberated off the office towers.

Yippie yi ohhhhhh

Unfazed, Minnesotans strolled the mall, waited for the bus, and snapped selfies with the Mary Tyler Moore statue as Marty Robbins wailed.

Yippie yi yaaaaay

If you weren't in the mood for songs about lonesome cowboys pursued by sky-borne herds of demon cows, give it a minute. Anything could be up next on the soundtrack along the city's historic downtown artery. Calypso music. Hip-hop. Classical. Big band hits from the 40s. Christmas carols. Brazilian jazz. More ballads about demon cows.

The cheery tonal whiplash of the Nicollet Mall soundtrack raises questions, usually on Reddit, an online discussion forum. Questions like "What is this music?" "Why is this music?" "Who is in charge of this music?"

The answer to that last question, for one split second of one morning last week, was me.

With a click of the mouse, I switched Pandora playlists. Steps away from the Downtown Improvement District offices, where the playlist lives, Prince's "Raspberry Beret" blasted the people waiting for the bus at the corner of 6th and Nicollet.

It was the most power I have ever wielded in this city. Next month, during the annual Doors Open Minneapolis celebration, that power can be yours.

During Doors Open, anyone can play Nicollet Mall DJ if they visit the Nicollet Community Space at 651 Nicollet. Choose wisely. By the time I ran outside to bask in the thanks of a grateful public, the '80s soundtrack I cued up was belting out "(Love Lift Us) Up Where We Belong." The people waiting for the bus didn't look all that grateful.

All part of the downtown experience. All in a day's work for the Nicollet Community Space.

If you haven't been downtown lately, "come see with a fresh set of eyes," said Lisa Middag, director of public space engagement for the Downtown Improvement District.

City centers are changing. More people are moving in, while fewer people are commuting in. The challenge for urban planners like Middag and her teammates is to remind people that downtown is more than just a place to work or sleep.

Downtown Minneapolis, she wants to remind you, is the only place you can go if you want to roller skate around the City Center this week.

Some look downtown and see all the storefronts that have shuttered since the pandemic and the shift to work-from-home. Others see vast stretches of smooth retail flooring and a chance for fun before a new business moves in. On April 11, from 6-9 p.m., the public can see the City Center as half-full of roller skaters. During the City Skate event, there will be games, a DJ and free skate rental for those who don't have their own. It sounds fun. Downtown should be fun.

Inside the Nicollet Community Space, oversized chess pieces wait in a wagon, sporting fleecy scarves, just like the players who meet to play on the sidewalk outside on cold days. Another wagon waits for the street performers who will use it on warmer days. The Downtown Council pays performers $60 an hour — plus any tips they collect — to liven up Nicollet Mall. Soon, there will be art festivals on the mall, and concerts and festivals and zero-waste swap meets.

In the spring, the space is open Tuesday through Thursday, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. to anyone looking for information, or a place to charge your phone, or downtown's most elusive prize — a public restroom.

There are public mixers here on the first Tuesday of every month with snacks and games. On the second Tuesday of the month, there are sessions about new downtown initiatives — like the new kiosks coming downtown to help you navigate and maybe discover all the other hidden downtown restrooms. On the third Tuesday of the month, the Community Space sets up a free store, offering necessities to anyone in need, along with social service assistance. The fourth Tuesday is Wellness Tuesday, with therapy dogs to pat, yoga classes and mindfulness activities.

Come downtown, is the message Minneapolis wants to convey here. We have puppies you can pat.

If you're still looking for an excuse to come downtown, Doors Open Minneapolis runs May 18 and 19. Museums, churches, theaters, workplaces and public spaces across the city will be inviting the public in to poke around. Fire stations will show you the trucks. The Star Tribune will show you around the mighty presses that printed this very article. The Minnesota Library Access Center will let you peek into its subterranean book cave. Public Works will pry up the decorative manhole covers to show you the sewers. It's going to be fun. A city should be fun.

And somewhere on Nicollet Mall, there's a soundtrack in need of a DJ.