This year's Downtown Celebration, held on Thursday February 15th at The Adelphia Music Hall, featured live music by The Hopewell, great food, drink specials, and the best company Marietta has to offer. The event welcomed members of City Council, state and regional leaders, business owners, residents, and donors alike to uplift the mission of Marietta Main Street and celebrate the nominees of the 2018 Main Street Awards.
The evening kicked off with a happy hour and networking from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., followed by a welcome by President of the Board, Sarah Arnold, and an address by Executive Director, Cristie Thomas.
Address from Marietta Main Street's Executive Director
Good Evening! Thank you all for coming out tonight and thank you Sarah, for that welcome. Thank you to our title sponsor, Pickering Associates, to The Adelphia Music Hall, and to The Hopewell for helping us put on this event.
Not many small towns can say they've received national recognition for an original documentary series on Hulu, earned a Best Hometown title by a state magazine, or celebrated a business of the year reigning from their town. Marietta can, though, and in 2017 we did.
If you remember, this time last year we had just survived the excitement and energy generated by The Small Business Revolution, and drew together even more when we learned that we did not make it as a Top 5 Finalist.
That experience granted to our community by The Small Business Revolution inspired our committee members to ask themselves: “How can we offer fresh perspective? How do we create space for our community members to see Marietta with fresh eyes?”
For example, in 2017 Marietta Main Street invested over $6,000 into public art initiatives downtown. Launching in November 2016, our Mural Gallery now includes 4 murals and by this July, we will have 4 more installed thanks to the support of local artists, property owners, and our friends at Signality Signs & Graphics as well as United Rentals who make it possible. Our Public Art Committee also celebrated the installation of a Love Lock Tree at the Marietta Harbor, created by local artist Zachary Orcutt.
This last year, due to the generosity of the Marietta Community Foundation and their donors, we rolled out a new program called Build Up Marietta through our Design Committee. This façade improvement grant program allows Main Street to support downtown property owners who strive to maintain and care for their buildings. This year, with only $6,000 to award, we leveraged nearly $30,000 in investment into four downtown buildings.
In 2017, we also launched First Fridays – a once a month, late night opportunity for our community to come together in the heart of our town and enjoy each other, eat local, shop local, and create new experiences together. This program allowed us to connect with community partners like Washington State Community College, Marietta College, Marietta City Schools, the Marietta-Washington County CVB, The Castle Historic House Museum, Peoples Bank, and more. Thousands of people have enjoyed First Friday events – my personal favorite being Downtown Mini Golf, an event that featured 17 custom putting greens created by our small business owners that, on our count, over 3,000 people enjoyed.
I could go on about our events and programs, but the truth is we are trying to sustainably shift away from being an event planning organization as we move towards fulfilling the true heart of our mission: revitalization.
Marietta Main Street fulfills many roles. Our focuses are on economic development, city planning, historic preservation, public art, downtown beautification, small business development, marketing, tourism, and much more. Our vision compels us to strive forward towards an inclusive, vibrant community where our history is honored, our community pride is obvious, and our sense of place is authentic, representative, and contributes to a quality of life.
2018 marks our 5 Year Anniversary as a nationally-accredited Main Street Community. This title does not come easy – annually, our Board of Directors is evaluated on a set of over 100 criteria to uphold this status, in partnership with the City of Marietta. We have a number of elected officials with us this evening, and I thank each of you for being present with us tonight. We are one of about 23 Main Street organizations in the state of Ohio and one of over 1,200 across the U.S.
So, in honor of our 5 Year Anniversary, I wanted to offer some of my own, personal thoughts to each of you this evening.
This past January 7th marked my 2 Year Anniversary as the Executive Director of our nonprofit, and I am the longest running Director we’ve had since we incorporated as an organization in 2006. I say this not to celebrate my tenure, but to serve as a reminder: our work is accomplished because of those who come around our table, who support our mission, who invest in our operations, and who advocate for our success.
Marietta Main Street has had many ups and downs over these past few years and our Board of Directors works diligently with our committees to balance a tremendous amount of expectation from our stakeholders.
We want small businesses to be successful. We want our community to feel at home downtown. We want our historic buildings to be preserved and designed well. We want our sidewalks to be walkable and family-friendly. We want tourists to know they are welcome here. We want local artists to see their creative visions come to life. We want our community to feel proud of how far we’ve come and to build a future together. We want our organization to be sustainable, on a strong foundation, and able to grow both in our internal capacity and in our external impact.
Did you know that we are the first Main Street in the state of Ohio to adapt the national Main Street Refresh? In April, we are hosting a state training by Heritage Ohio and every Main Street Director, with Board members and other volunteers, will all come to Marietta to hear from us about this shift, as well how we design our downtown and our programs around outdoor adventure, alternative transportation, history, and more.
I echo the sentiments of my Board President and friend Sarah Arnold in that it is a privilege to lead this organization built because over a decade ago, a group of passionate individuals came together with the idea that if we work together our future can be brighter.
I ask each one of you in this room to become a partner of Main Street, with your business or organization and as an individual. I ask each one of you to be present in our Community Meetings as you’re able. I ask each of you to be advocates who promote our mission of supporting local. Economists who study small town revitalization have come to realize that the strength of our downtown is a prime indicator of the strength of our community.
When we are successful, our community as a whole benefits.
This address was given during Marietta Main Street's 2018 Downtown Celebration held on Thursday, February 15th at The Adelphia Music Hall.