The Edmond Sun

May 14, 2013

AGAINST THE GRAIN: Department of Commerce highlights Main Street successes

William F. O'Brien
Special to The Sun

OKLA. CITY — The 24th annual Oklahoma Main Street Awards Banquet was at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum last week. Oklahoma Department of Commerce Secretary Dave Lopez addressed the gathering, and spoke of how the Commerce Department works with Main Street organizations throughout the state that are working to improve their downtown areas. Lopez pointed out that the partnership between his department and those local organizations has brought new life to those communities and that the attendees would see some of that revitalization in a video presentation. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin also addressed the gathering, and said the Main Street program has resulted in more than $1 billion in investments in the state and more than 1 million volunteer hours in its 24 years of operation.

Oklahoma Main Street Director Linda Barnett and Ron Frantz of the University of Oklahoma’s College of Architecture announced the communities, individuals and organizations that had been nominated for  awards.

The Premier Partner award was given to the Canadian County Historical Museum that operates the El Reno trolley. The program told of how the El Reno Main Street has worked with the museum to ensure that the trolley, which brings visitors to El Reno, remains in operation. The Pauls Valley Main Street was honored for having the most creative new event in “Living Dead Center Festival and Zombie 5K Run.” That event was planned in conjunction with the Pauls Valley Art Council’s Monster Art and Glow Show, and each runner was given four flags to represent their arms and legs to place on their belts. As the runners made their way on the route they were confronted with groups of “zombies” who tried to take their flags from them, and the runners who managed to cross the finish line with at least one surviving flag received awards. The Oklahoma Blood Institute conducted a blood drive in close proximity to the finish line under a sign that read “We Want to Take Your Blood.”

The Collinsville Main Street was honored for having the most outstanding web presence, and it was explained how those who wished to participate in the annual car show there could register for it on the website and also find  weather information for the area on the day of the show on the site. The Perry Main Street also was recognized for its website that allows for a “downtown virtual walk” for those who visit it. The Altus Main Street won the award for best new business downtown for “Dora Lou’s Place” that is in a renovated building. It now displays the original pressed copper tile ceiling and black and white checkered wood floor that were its features when it served as a drug store decades ago.

The “Friend of Main Street” award was bestowed on the Tribes and Tribal Nations of Oklahoma for the work that they have undertaken in partnership with local Main Street organizations. The Ardmore Main Street was honored for its partnership with The Chickasaw Nation’s Re-entry Program that assists individuals who recently were released from prison. Former prisoners who are in that program have worked to refurbish buildings in downtown Ardmore.

Franz detailed how other Main Street communities, including El Reno, Muskogee, Newkirk, Okmulgee, Ada and other locales also have planned activities and events with tribes in their area in the past year and that more such joint undertakings are currently being planned.

As the event concluded, Barnett thanked the guests for coming and asked them to continue the work they are doing for the revitalization of their downtown areas.

WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is a retired Oklahoma City attorney.