Carrollton, Vevay, La Grange benefit
from their Main Street Programs
Local events attract visitors, residents
to downtown shops
(June 2015) – Many small towns would be lost without a Main Street program. In numerous instances, it can provide economic stability, energize businesses and revitalize downtown areas.
Sam Burgess, director for the Carrollton Main Street Program, said the program “makes downtowns better.” The program has benefited his city by “managing to help stabilize the downtown area from a preservation standpoint, help with grant funding, provide a streetscape for the downtown area, and open a line of communication between city and county government and local businesses.”
Burgess has been the director of the Carrollton program for the last 14 years. To have a successful Main Street Program, he said you have to have a partnership between the public and private sector, investments, and city and county government participation.
There are four areas he has worked on to address the concerns of the historic downtown business district. The first involves economic restructuring, which includes retaining new businesses, marketing forces and determining what mix of retail, professional services and housing will prosper in the area.
Design is the second area. It is meant to improve and preserve the physical appearance of historic buildings. Thirdly, promotion of the downtown area is vital to the community and includes special events.
The fourth area is organization. This involves finding funding and organizing volunteers, said Burgess. The Carrollton Main Street Program is a non-profit organization governed by an 11-member board of directors.
One of the program’s most successful events or project has been the establishment of the First Fridays of each month. Occurring in the months of June, July, August and September, it has been “taken on and accepted by the community,” he said.
“A Christmas Carroll” is another popular event that takes place in downtown Carrollton during the holiday season. Burgess said there has been a great reaction to the Sidewalk Chalk Art Project, which took place in October.
Having a special event every month helps promote businesses and gets people downtown. In February a Chocolate Walk is held, in May a “Buy, Sell & Trade” event takes place and in November “Another Reason to Be Thankful” has become a familiar event.
Many businesses will hold a drawing in conjunction with these events. This provides “an element to make people go into the stores and sign up for the giveaway,” Burgess said.
He said the Main Street Program has played a vital role “in helping to promote the downtown area and keep it a viable commercial center.” New businesses looking to move into the area will pass it by if it cannot support a healthy center of activity.
Locals need a business community, said Burgess. “You can’t go to the big box stores for everything.”
When considering future goals, Burgess said he is “looking to improve upon what we already have.” In the time it has been in existence, the Carrollton Main Street Program has worked with the City to obtain grant money from Renaissance Kentucky and the Transportation Cabinet to fund major programs, resulting in a Streetscape Project and a Facade Grant Program.
The Main Street Program is a national program that originally began under the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Two years ago, the National Main Street Center took it over. This is a national organization committed to historic preservation-based community revitalization.
The Carrollton Main Street Program is also part of the Kentucky Main Street Program, which makes it a nationally and state accredited program. The Kentucky Main Street Program was developed by the Kentucky Heritage Council to aid in reversing the economic decline in the states’ downtown areas.
Vevay, Ind., Main Street
The Vevay Main Street organization in Vevay, Ind., has earned recognition as an accredited National Main Street Program for several years in a row. Vevay Main Street serves as one of only 19 communities throughout Indiana recognized with national accreditation last year.
Each year, Vevay Main Street’s performance is evaluated by Indiana Main Street, which works in partnership with the National Main Street Center. Vevay Main Street became an Indiana Main Street Community in 2005. One of Vevay Main Street’s most popular activities has been its First Friday events that feature extended shopping hours for downtown businesses, live entertainment and free carriage rides in the downtown area, said Vicky Hinman, the program’s director.
The First Friday event “brings people into downtown Vevay each month,” she said. It is a 12-month tourism sponsored event that she hopes will “help businesses grow.”
She called it a “family-friendly event, even in the winter months with events like Light Up Vevay.” Contests are held for businesses to decorate their storefronts. There is a wreath contest with prizes donated from local businesses.
“We have a couple of different programs we try to do,” Hinman said. “We work with business owners and property owners to preserve the downtown area. We also have a Facade and Signage Improvement Program and a Flower Pot Program to beautify the downtown.”
Without the financial and developmental support of the community and commissioners, “we would not get very far,” said Hinman. She works hard at trying to get the younger generation to see the value of the Main Street Program and get excited about it since they will one day be in charge of it.
Currently she is looking into grants for next year. “There is an enormous amount of federal and state grants available to help upgrade things,” Hinman said. “These are available to different communities if you have a Main Street organization.”
Discover Downtown La Grange, Ky.
Since 2003, the city of La Grange, Ky., has had an extremely successful Main Street program called Discover Downtown La Grange. In addition to preserving the historical culture and architecture of La Grange, this entity focuses on honoring its small town character and quality of life.
Photo by Don Ward
Downtown La Grange is unique in that a train track runs through it. As a result, the town holds a Railroad and Bluegrass Festival each year in October.
The program is currently in the process of revamping to improve its impact upon the community. It is searching for a new director, since Nancy Griffith, the previous director, has left to take a position with the Oldham County Chamber of Commerce.
She wants to ensure that the public’s familiarity with the events in La Grange continue. “We want to offer DDL as the hub of downtown that links CityPlace’s Visitor Center and the downtown Welcome Center to everything that our community has to offer.”
Several committees are carrying on the events promoted by the program. One highly successful event has been the Blue Hydrangea Progressive Tea held each year in April to raise money for ovarian cancer awareness. One hundred percent of the proceeds from this event go to Ovarian Awareness Kentucky.
The La Grange Farmers’ Market & Artisan sets up on the La Grange Courthouse Square each Saturday from May through October. Other events include a Chocolate Crawl in February, A Taste of La Grange in July, Vintage Market on the Tracks in August, Ghost Stories on the Square in September, Ghost Tours in September and October, Railroad & Bluegrass Festival in October, and Light Up La Grange the first Friday in December.
Beverly McCombs, the program’s president, said committee members and volunteers work extra hard to provide all of these events.
“The Spirit of La Grange Ghost Tours have literally helped put us on the map as a ‘go to’ destination,” she said. “There is no way to adequately measure how many visitors seek out our charming downtown, and as a result, spend their hard earned dollars here, instead of somewhere else.”
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