Downtown Athens is the type of place where you can sit a spell and talk to passersby, sip a cup of coffee, or enjoy events that range from toga-wearing festivals to indulging in chocolate.
To encourage visitors in our downtown district to linger longer and enjoy our shops, restaurants,and events, we want to place rocking chairs painted by local artists in parklets around our downtown area. Because the rocking chairs are mobile we can strategically place them for events in certain areas if needed. We hold several events each year and want to utilize these rockers as a fun way to encourage visitors to Sit a 'Spell and enjoy what our downtown has to offer.
Our project will take place in Downtown Athens, AL and serve Athens and surrounding Limestone County. Athens, AL is the county seat of Limestone County and downtown Athens, with our 1869 Courthouse in the center, is the heart and spirit of our community. Our project is a nod to our historical residential districts surrounding our downtown Athens, AL district. Our downtown district also borders Athens State University, a historical higher learning institution, which hosts the Tennessee Old Time Fiddlers Convention each October. Front porches are abundant on the homes in our historical districts.
We would like to start on our project as soon as we receive notice of award so that we can have the rocking chairs in place for the beginning for our Fridays After Five events which begin in June and go through the end of August. These events feature sidewalk music, food and encourage shopping in our local boutiques. We will give the rocking chairs their own Facebook page, and for the launch we will hold a scavenger hunt around our Downtown District utilizing the chairs with questions being posted on the Facebook page.
The funds raised will be used to purchase exterior grade rocking chairs and side tables as well as art supplies. Local students in art classes and our local artist cooperative will paint the rocking chairs and side tables in themes associated with our downtown, events and festivals. One new parklet will be created and the rocking chairs and tables will be placed there. For this new parklet, local art students will paint a mural on the surrounding building walls to enhance a currently run down blank space.
For Downtown Athens merchants, the Christmas season brings more than cash registers ringing like jingle bells.
The holidays also herald two fierce competitions that mean bragging rights for the year, the Cider Cup and Best Window Display. This year’s winner of the Spirit of Athens Cider Cup is Wildwood Deli, which also claimed victory in 2014.
“We will have it on prominent display,” said Wildwood owner Rhonda Fisher, who received the Cider Cup on Monday, Dec. 19.
More than 350 shoppers cast ballots for their favorite cider during the annual Sippin’ Cider, a holiday retail event hosted by Spirit of Athens where merchants allow shoppers to sample cider and vote for their favorite. SOA Executive Director Melanie Newton said the voting was close with Snapdragon Kids, Pimentos and The Right Dress Boutique finishing second, third and fourth.
Newton said the ballots ask for an address since there is a drawing for a door prize, and according to the ballots submitted, Sippin’ Cider drew shoppers not only locally but from the surrounding areas.
“We drew visitors from Madison, Decatur and Tennessee to our downtown,” Newton said.
Another event that drew visitors from surrounding areas was Christmas Open House held in late November. That event was hosted by the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce and Spirit of Athens. This year’s theme was Winter Wonderland, and downtown merchants decorated their storefront windows in various winter themes from swans to ice skating.
The first place winner was Garnet’s, which claimed the title for the third year in a row. Second place was Snapdragon Kids and third place was Trinity’s.
“The storefront windows are a joy to see each year,” said SOA Promotions Committee member Holly Hollman. “When the merchants start decorating for the holidays, and the Courthouse grounds are decorated, it feels like Christmas in Athens.”
Downtown Athens is hosting a holiday trio that hits the right notes for the Christmas season: cider, Santa and seasonal sales.
The annual Spirit of Athens Sippin’ Cider event is Saturday, Dec. 10, from 5-8 p.m. at participating merchants. Spirit of Athens is a Main Street organization that works to enhance Downtown Athens, and this event encourages shoppers to support downtown merchants and enjoy family-friendly activities.
“Sippin’ Cider offers families a fun way to shop,” said Spirit of Athens Promotions Committee member Holly Hollman. “There will be seasonal sales to help you finish your Christmas shopping as well as free crafts and activities for the children and music for all ages to enjoy.”
The participating merchants will compete for the coveted Cider Cup and offer free samples of nice and in some cases naughty cider. The public votes for its favorite cider, and those who visit the required number of merchants can submit their judging sheets for a door prize drawing.
High Cotton Arts will start the festivities early with a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, who will be in an art studio decorated especially for photo sessions with Santa. Parents can bring a camera and make photos while children make sure their Christmas wishes are known. Santa later will walk around Downtown Athens visiting merchants and shoppers.
“I love visiting Athens and meeting with all the boys and girls who are out enjoying the festive events your city offers for the holidays,” said Santa, who has ordered a new suit to ensure he looks spiffy for his Athens appearances. “It also gives me an opportunity to remind them to continue to be good.”
The Lions Club Kiddie Carnival Train will offer free rides for children, and there will be a fire pit on The Square on the Courthouse side of Washington and Marion street for marshmallow roasting and S’mores. There will be music provided by Athens High School Choir and Tom Newton.
Here is a list of participating merchants, craft stations and musical entertainment locations:
Athens Arts League at High Cotton Arts
Register for in-store ceramic Christmas item giveaway
Make a snowman ornament
Visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus from 3-5 p.m.
Our Little Kitchen Food Truck
Free gift wrap on $20 or more in purchases
15% off children's materials
Register to win a hymnal $15 value and book $45 value
Athens High School Choir will perform from 6:30 to 7 p.m.
Buy one get one 1/2 off Christmas soy candles
Ornaments 20% off
Register for in store giveaway - $50 in Christmas decorations
20% off store wide
Register for in store giveaway - $25 gift card
Gray and Holt, Inc.
Register for in store giveaway - $50 gift certificate
Free plastic sled with purchase of Flexible Flyer Sled
Register in store to win a Snow Saucer Sled
Football on TV for the big kids
House of Holland
25% off all clothing
50% off all home goods
Register for in store giveaway - $50 gift certificate
Live music by Tom Newton
Register to win one free lunch with beverage - $15 value
20% off storewide from 5-8
Register for in store giveaway - $60 value
20% off all clothes and shoes
30% off Christmas
Register to win in store giveaway - Christmas toy basket ($50 Value)
Face painting for kids
Square Clock Coffee
Register to win in store giveaway - $10 gift card
Make a reindeer ornament
The Right Dress Boutique
20% off storewide (excludes sale items)
50% off Lovelee Soaps
Game day dresses $20 and under
Register to win in store giveaway - String Theory Bracelet - $45 Value
Register to win in store giveaway - $50 gift certificate
U.G. White Mercantile
Register to win in store giveaway - ENO Hammock
Register to win in restaurant giveaway - $20 gift card
Register to win free lunch giveaway - $10 value
Enjoy a fresh baked sweet with your cider
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Main Street Alabama awarded T.R.A.I.L., a youth service organization, with the community award for Athens. The Main Street Alabama Community award recognizes an individual or organization that has been active with and made outstanding contribution to the local Main Street program - Spirit of Athens.
T.R.A.I.L.(Together Renewing and Improving Limestone) is a local student group comprised of city and county school representatives that strive to make life in Limestone County better. T.R.A.I.L. is funded by the Dekko Foundation which is dedicated to empowering youth within the community. T.R.A.I.L. has been a partner of Spirit of Athens since 2008. They have volunteered for numerous events including Cruizin' on the Square, Christmas Open House, Sippin' Cider Festival, Chocolate Walk, Athens Saturday Market, Athens Grease Festival, decorated downtown with live greenery for Christmas and provided clean up efforts for other downtown events. They have also provided funding for art camps, kids activities at the Athens Grease Festival, and an activity booklet for the Athens Saturday Market. Through Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful's Adopt a Spot program, these students clean up the downtown area on a monthly basis. During their monthly clean up efforts, the group recognized the need for ash receptacles . They then awarded a grant to help fund the purchase of the receptacles and had input of the placement.
From left to right in photo:
TRAIL members Jackson Gowan, Mary Frances Moore, Noah Blackwood, President, Victoria Black, Vice President, and Trisha Black, Spirit of Athens Executive Director.
Let's light it up! Downtown is to become a wireless hot spot.
The system through Traveller Multimedia Network will also provide backup internet for city/county facilities make the Sportplex a hotspot, and maintain a live web cam on Downtown Athens.
The live web cam will show Athens 24/7!! You'll be able to check in on different events and Athens Police will be able to use footage as needed should there be a crime committed Downtown.
Stay tuned for updates!!
Randall Peek, ASM Market Manager, accepted the award at the annual luncheon in Montgomery.
At the Main Street Alabama Annual Awards luncheon, Spirit of Athens received the 2014 Excellence in Promotion for the Athens Saturday Market.
The Athens Saturday Market is a state certified Farmers Market held at the Farmers Market Pavilion at 409 W. Green Street.
The event is held every Saturday from June-August from 8 AM - Noon. The Athens Saturday Market opened in 2013 and received certification from the Farmers Market Authority in 2014.
The Limestone County commission allowed Spirit of Athens to use the pavilion to host the Athens Saturday Market. Through sponsorships, "Friends of the Market' campaign, tshirt sales, and vendor fees, SOA has been able to promote the Market and create a fun atmosphere with live music and special events. A weekly newsletter is emailed to over 800 subscribers with a list of what customers can expect to find at the Market that week. There's also a website, and active social media pages on Facebook and Instagram.
Downtown restaurants have used produce from the Market and have also set up during the Market to give out samples and participate as a Market vendor.
Since SOA started the Athens Saturday Market, sidewalks have been added to make the site more easily accessible to surrounding neighborhoods. Additionally, Lowes awarded a grant that funded a community garden (that provides fresh produce to a local food bank), and gazebo on site. Vendors are selling out of their items and special events brings in easily 1000 or more visitors to the Market. Every season, the Market hosts a Kids Day, Patriotic Day, and Tomato Sandwich Day.
Main Street Alabama recently awarded Laurie McGuire the 2014 "Excellence in Architectural Design" for the Renovation of the 17th Block on East Market Street.
Laurie McGuire purchased the 17th Block of buildings located at East Market Street right before the recession in 2008. Unable to find financial assistance, she wasn't able to complete renovations until the fall of 2014. During that period, the properties were targeted by some to being an eyesore and were being deemed unsafe structures in the local media. Laurie has now renovated the entire block of buildings and since the Fall of 2014, is 100% occupied with five tenants including Southern Vintage Boutique, The Broken Brush, Salon Blush, Riff Raff Furniture, and Sweet Home Vapor Company, creating 12 new jobs in that block. Spirit of Athens awarded Laurie two facade grants ($2,000) and facilitated a no interest loan for $5,000 for facade improvements.
August 25, 2015
Contact: Marylon Barkan: 205.516.4506, firstname.lastname@example.org
Program celebrates local successes on Main Street Alabama Day
MONTGOMERY ─ Main Street Alabama celebrated Designated Communities successes on a special day in honor of the organization, as proclaimed by Governor Robert Bentley. Main Street Alabama’s President and State Coordinator, Mary Helmer, announced the winners of the Main Street Alabama Awards of Excellence today in Montgomery with former President of the National Main Street Center, Kennedy Smith and Kathy LaPlante, Senior Program Officer with the National Main Street Center. The event was sponsored by Alabama Municipal Electric Authority and took place at the Capital City Club in downtown Montgomery. A total of 30 awards were given during the luncheon.
“It’s an honor to recognize these outstanding community projects, leaders and volunteers,” stated Mary Helmer. “Todays award winners represent the most innovative downtown revitalization projects in our Main Street Alabama communities. The effort and leadership it takes to move these projects from concept through completion is tremendous and we are thrilled to acknowledge such achievements. We are especially honored to be presenting these awards on Main Street Alabama Day, as proclaimed by Governor Bentley.”
Awards are as follows:
Main Street Alabama Leadership Award:
Trisha Black, Spirit of Athens, Executive Director
Main Street Alabama Community Awards are as follows:
Alexander City: Randy Thomas
Birmingham: Wayne Honeycutt, Jr.
Eufaula: Steve Cox
Florence: Mike McDaniel
Gadsden: Christian Motorcycle Association- Reborn Riders
Monroeville: Sandy Smith
Opelika: Aaron Bushey
Oxford: OxfordFest Board
Main Street Alabama Awards of Excellence are as follows:
Excellence in Fundraising:
Athens- Dinner in the Orchard
Birmingham- The Urban Food Project
Gadsden- Party with a Purpose
Excellence in Volunteer Development:
Athens- Spirit of Athens Awards Luncheon
Excellence in Public/Private Partnerships:
Athens – H.C. Blake Co, High Cotton Arts
Eufaula- Arts and Entertainment District
Excellence in Business Development:
Alexander City – Missing Piece Competition
Florence - Facebook Tutorials
Excellence in Downtown Marketing:
Birmingham – 5 Points South Marketing Initiative
Florence – 2015 Downtown Shopping Guide
Gadsden – Holiday Postcard
Excellence in Promotion:
Alexander City – Downtown Dining Under the Stars
Athens – Athens Saturday Market
Birmingham – Woodlawn Street Market
Excellence in Business Promotion:
Athens – Sippin’ Cider
Gadsden – Connections
Excellence in Architectural Design:
Athens – 17th Block Renovation
Florence – 102 North Court Street
Excellence in Planning & Public Spaces:
Opelika – Railroad Avenue Streetscape Project
Excellence in Historic Preservation:
Birmingham – Florentine Building
Florence – Pop Up Museum
The Awards of Excellence Luncheon is a highlight of the aLABama Downtown Laboratory, a two-day conference that bolsters the efforts of communities participating in the nationally acclaimed Main Street program or those communities interested in downtown revitalization. The second annual event drew 119 community leaders from 44 cities across the state.
Main Street Alabama has 16 Designated Programs and 23 Downtown Network Communities. Alexander City, Anniston, Athens, Birmingham, Decatur, Dothan, Elba, Eufaula, Florence, Fort Payne, Gadsden, Jasper, Monroeville, Opelika, Oxford, and Selma each have Designated Programs and three new communities will be added annually. Applications to become a Designated Program will be available in Spring 2016. Until then, communities interested in downtown revitalization can participate in Main Street Alabama's Downtown Network.
Main Street Alabama focuses on bringing jobs, dollars and people back to Alabama’s historic communities. Economic development is at the heart of our efforts to revitalize downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts.