Encouraging economic development, redevelopment and improvement of the historic downtown area is Spirit of Athens’ mission.
A mission that, along with the guidance of Main Street, will become a reality. Main Street, a part of the National Trust of Historic Preservation, works by implementing an incremental, comprehensive strategy focusing on Design, Organization, Promotion and Economic Restructuring.
Main Street teaches us that all four points need to be working to have successful results. It’s a balancing act to keep all energy from focusing on just one area.
Design focuses on decorations, lighting, offering design assistance, and keeping the overall look or image of Athens in the forefront. Organization involves keeping the program sustainable. Promotion deals with making downtown a tourist destination, while economic restructuring helps to retain existing businesses and recruiting new businesses.
Main Street has successfully guided nearly 2000 communities nationwide in their revitalization efforts.
Spirit of Athens was formed in 2006 without the guidance of a state Main Street program. During the past year, SOA has been working with the Alabama Historic Commission to meet the qualifications of becoming a certified program when Alabama Main Street launches in January 2010. Qualifications include an extensive inventory of the downtown area, city/county support, active board of directors, working committees, and a strategic work plan.
This will be a great opportunity to tell Athens’ story along with the other 13 communities being considered for participation in Alabama Main Street. Communities not already involved in the process will not be considered into the program until the end of 2010.
There have been organized efforts in the past, but without community support, revitalization won’t happen. Now the momentum is changing, and the community sees the importance of having a vibrant retail mix, safe walkable streets, preserving historic characteristics, and promoting downtown Athens as a destination.
To become a member of Spirit of Athens, call 256-278-6436 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visit the website at www.spiritofathens.com.
Alabama’s Main Street organizations are demonstrating that historic preservation plays a key role in downtown revitalization and economic development, in tourism, and in overall community health. At the same time, these volunteer led organizations are saving hundreds of downtown commercial buildings, with ripple effects that extend to nearby historic homes and neighborhoods, and outlying farmhouses and former plantation homes. The volunteer leadership of these organizations have persevered in the face of the economic downturns, profound demographic changes, and shifting political winds at the local level. The work they do is not only helping use historic buildings as assets, but is helping to make Alabama a better place to live and visit.
Main Street is a community-driven program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation that is used to revitalize downtown and neighborhood business districts throughout the United States.
The AHC presented the award on Friday, October 9 during this year’s Alabama Preservation Conference in Auburn.
Visit Spirit of Athens website for more information on the organization.
To protect, preserve, and interpret Alabama’s historic places is the mission of the Alabama Historical Commission, the State Historic Preservation Office.
The Tours Are Sold Out-but you can still enjoy the stories in the "Spirits of Athens" available later this month
Wanna hear (and see) a good ghost story?
Wanna hear (and see) a good ghost story? Take a walk in October
Many years ago, an opera singer was given red roses following a performance at McCandless Hall at Athens State University. Tragically, she was killed on her way home when the buggy she was riding in crashed.
Late at night, she can sometimes still be seen in the upstairs windows of the hall, carrying a red rose.
The McCandless ghost story is one of dozens known around Athens. During October, the annual Athens Historic Haunts Walks will feature eight stops around the Athens Historical District full of old ghost stories about the town and its buildings.
"It's about two or three blocks off the square, and it starts at Houston Memorial Library," said Jeanette Dunnavant, tourism director for the Athens Chamber of Commerce. "It takes an hour and a half to walk it with stops and stories."
Shane Black, the city attorney, is the storyteller for the Haunts Walks.
"They all have a lot of variety," he said. "You can't tell a story without telling the history of the town."
Another story, and one of Black's favorites, is set in the Houston Library. The library was once home to a former Alabama governor, and the tale says a grandfather clock can still be heard chiming upstairs. There's no clock in the building, and it's unclear why it chimes.
The walks will be Tuesday and Oct. 8, 13, 20 and 22. Each walk will start at 7 p.m. and take about an hour and a half to complete. On Oct. 8, there will be a driving tour at 5:30 p.m. for the physically impaired.
Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the chamber office on Beaty Street. Dunnavant said the walks are limited to 25 people, and they sell out every year.
People should come about 15 minutes early to enjoy refreshments courtesy of the library.
The Haunts Walks started when Black and Dunnavant wanted to come up with a family-friendly event near Halloween. There are other things in the area, but many of them scare children, so the tour was created.
This year, Black wrote a book compiling the stories. In addition to the stories from the trail, it will include other stories from different parts of Athens. All of the proceeds of the book will go to Spirit of Athens, a downtown revitalization group.
"We do not jump out and scare people, but we tell the tales," Dunnavant said. "We don't want kids to have nightmares. We just want them to have fun."
For more info, call the chamber at 232-5411.
The Southern Shorts Film Festival "Fill er Up" campaign was a success. Thanks to all that contributed!!
Bill Hunt,* Diane Lehr, Dick Chittam,* Penne Laubenthal,* Carole Foret, Shannon Bryant, Tony McCormack, Victoria Black, Shane Black, Jennifer Rosso, Why Heisler, Beverly Henley,* Samantha Banks, Naomi Dubuois, and a few anonymous
*Southern Shorts VIPs
Films are coming in and party plans are being made. Purchase premiere tickets soon as seats are limited. This is a "must see," "can't miss" event.
October 16 - 7 PM to 10:30PM
Premiere Party, the Clubhouse
Enjoy complimentary food, beverages and get a sneak peak of the winning entries
October 17 - Noon to 10 PM
McCandless Hall, Athens State University
Penne Laubenthal was selected as the first Southern Shorts Film Festival VIP. She will receive 2 premiere party tickets and be recognized on a video during the festival. For every $250 received, a winner will be randomly selected. Only 5 days left, so donate today. You can contribute as little as $10! Every little bit helps and you just might be the next VIP. All donations are tax-deductible.
The Enabler and Her Codependents: Local Landmark Love...
Next month, filmmakers, directors, writers, and talented Athenians will be walking the red carpet at the Southern Shorts Film Festival. Crazy thought? Not at all.
Earlier this year, Alabama passed film incentives that will encourage and compete for independent film production in our state. After doing a little research, it became clear that North Alabama, particularly Limestone County, was not represented on statewide film websites and marketing materials. Well, we are about to change that. Look around and picture your surroundings through a camera lens. Can't you see it now? Our historical downtown the backdrop of a major film? It could happen. In Limestone County, you also have the farmlands, the rivers and other unique southern towns. Can you imagine the economic impact to our community?
Late spring, I was encouraged to meet with Alissa Rose-Clark, a talented artist, photographer and visionary. Alissa talked about the art of film and her interest in hosting a "short film" festival in Athens. Although I saw the impact and importance of marketing our “hidden gem,” I didn’t have the technical expertise to make it happen. So what did we do? We talked, we met, and we dreamed. Now a month out, we are ready to put on our “big girl shorts” and jump in with both feet. Don’t think this is a two-woman show though...it’s far from it. The Southern Shorts Film Festival is part of Art on the Square with Spirit of Athens mainly focusing on organizing the Premiere Party to be held at the Clubhouse October 16. The festival will be at McCandless Hall at Athens State University on October 17.
Diane Lehr, media guru, AOTS Board member and SOA Organization committee member, is tracking the festival and party details. She’s a “sweet” task-master and is doing an excellent job keeping us focused and assigning duties. A Festival Planning committee comprised of interested volunteers, SOA Organization members, and AOTS board members are pounding the pavement, marketing the event, selling tickets, ordering food, etc. At the end of the day, “when the red carpet is rolled up,” proceeds will be split between the two organizations. SOA to continue their downtown revitalization efforts, and AOTS to continue offering art experiences in the community.
What’s next? After the October 1 deadline, local film experts will judge the applications. Winners will be selected from a youth and adult category. Entries can be made in the “Secret Athens” theme or open category. Entries must be under 15 minutes and the grand prize winner will receive $500, additional cash prizes will be awarded to the runners-up.
On October 16, the public is invited to attend a Premiere Party at the Clubhouse. The theme is “all things Southern.” Complimentary food-including your local favorites, and beverages will be available. Those attending will be able to watch the winning films and rub elbows with those behind the camera. Tickets purchased before October 1 will be $25. After October 1, tickets will be $35 each or $60 for guest plus one. Seats are limited.
The next day, selected film submissions will be shown in the historic McCandless Hall from Noon - 10 pm. A synopsis and film descriptions will be available prior to the event. All day tickets are $8.
Anyone can enter a film, so bust out the camcorder and start filming.
For more information, visit the Art on the Square website at www.aots-athens.com. Southern Shorts Film Festival information can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and blog.
It does not take much to make a BIG impact. These donations will go towards the best Downtown party yet - the Southern Shorts Film Festival Premiere Party. Whether it's $10 or $50, we could use it!! Once $250 is received, a winner will be randomly selected as a Southern Shorts VIP. Donate and enter today!!
Fill our pockets...so we are not left empty handed. In the next two weeks, we are asking for your help. By donating a little, you'll be helping a lot. For every $250 raised, a winner will be selected to receive two premiere tickets. See the side column to donate via paypal.
Southern Shorts Film Festival is October 17 with a premiere party October 16. Anyone can enter a film. Visit the Art on the Square website for film entry information.
Many thanks to Art on the Square for giving SOA proceeds of the "Cruise In" painting by Alissa Rose-Clark. The painting was auctioned during the Art on the Square Silent Auction on August 8th. Be watching for future projects by AOTS and SOA!!
By Laura Krizov, Manager, Michigan Main Street Center
Michigan State Housing Development Authority
Why Main Street? I am sure Main Street communities ask themselves often…. Why do we continue to follow the Main Street Four-Point Approach TM?
The answer should be that it gets those individuals who are passionate about their downtown or commercial neighborhood involved. The commitment and enthusiasm is what drives the program to success. It doesn’t matter how big your budget is or how large your volunteer base is, it is about the passion volunteers have for their downtown that will make the program successful.
The philosophy of Main Street, which is centered around the Four-Points (Organization, Promotion, Design and Economic Restricting), has Eight Guiding Principles that make the program so successful. The philosophy is what makes this grassroots effort, community-driven program so great.
The Eight Guiding Principles are:
Comprehensive – Each of the four points need to be focused on - not just focusing on one or two points. If one point is not working, then it will be hard for the other three points to achieve what they want to accomplish.
Incremental – Successful programs begin with the basics, that is , small visual changes. There are no quick-fixes to revitalization. Downtowns or Traditional Neighborhoods didn’t get in a state of disrepair overnight, so we need to begin with those baby steps.
Self-help - Nobody knows what’s better for the community and how to do it than the community itself. Success can only be formed by local leadership demonstrating community involvement and commitment to their own revitalization efforts.
Partnerships – Common goals of the revitalization efforts need to have public and private partnerships. The entire revitalization process shouldn’t fall entirely on either the private or public sectors. Both parties have roles to play in the revitalization efforts of downtowns.
Identifying and capitalizing on existing assets - Every community is unique and has its different strengths and opportunities on which they must capitalize. Main Street recognizes what makes each community different and uses that as its basis for success. These existing assets create authentic experiences that can’t be experienced anywhere else.
Quality – Quality is more important than quantity. For a program to be successful, quality must be applied to everything. A community’s revitalization efforts will have a much bigger impact if they achieve a few things very well instead of a lot of things only half done.
Change - Attitude is everything. Perception is reality. Change is an opportunity to do better. Main Street must change people’s attitudes and perceptions towards the downtown. The worst thing that a community can do is continue doing things the same way because that is the way that it has always been done.
Implementation – There is no more sitting around and thinking of ideas or talking about what needs to be done. Now is the time that volunteers take change, roll-up their sleeves and get to work. Visible results, success, and revitalization only comes from completing projects.
The Main Street program has been successful in both rural and urban communities of all sizes. The Main Street approach is not designed to generate immediate change. In order to succeed, a long-term revitalization effort requires attention to detail in every aspect of our own downtown.
Both Clark and Lehr are AOTS Board members, SOA members, and talented artists.
An active art community is vital in a vibrant community and I am thrilled to see Art on the Square and Carole Foret continuously bring art experiences to Downtown Athens. Don't forget, the 4th Annual Art on the Square Festival is September 12 on the courthouse lawn. Over 50 artists participating in the juried art show. For more information on AOTS, visit their website.
Organization committee- Teresa Higgins, Patti Whitaker (chair), Me, Diane Lehr, guest-Mike Brand, and Amanda Romine, Membership Coordinator. Not in photo, but taking picture - Alissa Rose-Clark.
Members and volunteers are the driving force behind SOA. I have been encouraged by the number of interesting and talented people that I get to work with - it is rewarding to say the least. SOA's newly formed Organization rocks and I am energized every time we have a work session. Their responsiblities include public relations, coordinating volunteers, recruiting members, and organizing fundraisers. In the works...publication of S.O.A.P- the first SOA print newsletter, a membership drive, Southern Shorts Film Festival Preview Party, and more!! So watch out for these ladies - they are on a roll!
It is also been a pleasure working with SOA's new webmaster, myspace administrator, and graphic design guru, Brent Hobbs. Got anything you want designed? Email Brent. He'll whip it up in a flash.
Ever wonder what you can do to help SOA? Make a purchase at Chick-fil-A tomorrow night, mention Spirit of Athens and you'll be contributing to the organization. Chick-fil-A has graciously agreed to give SOA 10% of the proceeds of sales during 5-8 pm, but remember to mention SOA!! SOA doesn't get the credit unless you give us a "shout out." Thank you in advance and I hope to see you there!
Tuesday, July 28
5 PM- 8 PM
You would not believe the number of people that showed up to Cruise downtown on May 30! Not growing up in Athens, I did not know what to expect. Well...people from all ages showed up and it was FUN! Who'd thought circling the courthouse square could be so amusing? Mike Scott, a local resident and "Cruiser," collected $410 for SOA. The money will be put in a future Facade Improvement Grant Program.
Enjoy photos taken by Alissa Rose-Clark. The sweet couple, Mr. & Mrs. Irons, is shown in an earlier post when they cruised in the 1950s.
Carole Foret, local artist and business owner, has graciously donated this painting to be given away at the Art on the Square Silent Auction August 8. For a $10 donation, you get to attend the auction as well as be entered for the drawing. You do not have to be present to win, but, believe me...this is an event you don't want to miss. The number of applicants for the 4th Annual Art on the Square festival, held on the courthouse lawn September 12, doubled this year and most will donate a piece for the auction. Bring your friends, sip some wine and buy LOCAL art!!
For more information, call 256.444.8156 (leave a message) or email email@example.com. Or mail your check to Art on the Square, P.O. Box 1560, Athens, AL, 35612. Be sure to include your contact information.
Look forward to seeing you there!
Art on the Square Silent Auction
August 8, 6:30-9 PM
Carole Foret Fine Art Gallery
"I grew up in Athens. I love Athens and appreciate all the hard work that the Spirit of Athens group does to keep Athens alive. My husband, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter were visiting my Dad and stepmother, over the 4th of July weekend. After a great morning with my sister-in-law's family at their annual 4th of July breakfast, we met my brother and his wife for dinner on the square on the evening of the 4th. We had a wonderful dinner at Luvici's. The food was delicious and their waitstaff was very friendly and helpful. Our waitress held our granddaughter while we enjoyed our food. You don't find that in too many places!!! Then we enjoyed a leisurely stroll around the square to look at all of the cars on display. It brought back a lot of good memories. We also attended the AU/ALA spirit day last year. We ate at [Tortillas] Blanco and enjoyed our lunch that day, also. I hope we can time our visits so we can enjoy more of the events that you have planned throughout the year."
Sincerely, Sherry Harper Coleman, Olive Branch, MS
Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Amanda Romine at Luvici's for lunch. Lunch was good as usual, but our conversation was even better. She's a mother of three and works at a local accounting firm. With boundless energy and a love for downtown Athens, she's a great addition to SOA. She has graciously agreed to serve as Membership Coordinator - so you may be hearing from her soon.
Welcome Amanda - look forward to working with you.
Mr. Paul Irons shared this great picture of him and his wife cruising the square in the 1950s. Read more in todays News Courier.
Hope to see you cruising through the square Saturday night between 6 PM - Midnight. Donations will be accepted for SOA to start a Facade Improvement Grant Program.
Hope to see you there!!
Mike Scott, a local resident and 1989 graduate of Athens High school, started a Facebook group a few months ago. “Cruizin the Square” group members, nearly 700 now, share experiences and news clippings on the social networking website. After suggestions of creating a reunion emerged, Mike Scott started thinking it might be possible. Scott met with the Mayor Dan Williams and applied for a special event permit.
The Cruizin the Square reunion is scheduled for May 30 from 6 PM until midnight. Scott is asking for donations from those attending the Cruising Reunion. “I am asking that folks meet me at my minivan and donate $1-2. That money will be given to Spirit of Athens for downtown improvements.” Those that love downtown should attend and show their children what they did in their spare time.”
The Spirit of Athens plans to use the donations to start a Facade Improvement Grant Program. The program will allow downtown property owners to apply for financial assistance in improving the exterior of their buildings including painting the facade, awnings, signage, and lighting. SOA is currently looking for investors to contribute to this program.
For more on the Cruizin the Square Reunion information, contact Mike Scott at 256-233-7177. To learn more about the Spirit of Athens, call 256-278-6436 or visit www.spiritofathens.com.
Thank you to everyone that volunteered last Saturday, April 4th. SOA participated in the Great American Clean Up sponsored by KALB (Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful), held an Easter Egg Hunt, and hosted another successful Cruise In. It was a busy day, but good to see people on the square all day.
Next Cruise In is May 2nd from 3 - 9 PM.
Please note the dogwood trees in the picture from the Cruise In. The courthouse lawn is beautiful this time of year!
Good Morning…I just wanted to say how much fun it was to see all those old and some newer cars Saturday. There were so many people walking around the square. I hope some stopped in to shop while the guys got their fill of engines and such. We try to visit downtown on these special event days. Thanks for all the work you and your committee do for Athens progress. Can’t tell you how I’m amazed at having a beer and pizza on the square!
I am proud to announce that my trip to the Main Street Conference has already been so helpful. Meetings started today at 8:30 am and continued until 6 pm, with a reception following until 9 pm. I've received valuable information on the 4 points - economic restructuring, organization, promotions, and design. Communities from across the nation are attending this 4 day conference and are sharing their own success stories. I can't wait to get back to Athens and implement some of these ideas. Get ready!!
Ashley Winkle, Florence Main Street Director and me between meetings.