Walking in a Main Street Wonderland: Celebrating the Holidays in Virginia

If you are looking for the holiday spirit, look no further than Virginia’s Main Streets.  Whether a holiday shopping promotion, a tree lighting, or a downtown evening carriage ride, there is a special experience just for you and your family.  Our partners at #VirginiaTourism make sure you can plan this season’s special moments with the greatest of ease through event listings and search engines. Here are a few highlights of what Virginia’s charming towns and cities have to offer throughout December:

Light Up the Tracks, Ashland – See downtown Ashland as a mile long holiday card all lit up for the season each weekend.

Christmas Parade, Blackstone – This annual family event, planned for December 14, is one part of a full calendar of weekend Santa visits, shopping specials, and the not-to-miss Bevell’s Hardware train display.

Festive Fridays, Cape Charles – Five nights of free, family-friendly festivities, including carriage rides, street performers, live local music, restaurant specials, and evening shopping.

Holiday Market, Abingdon – Support the local businesses by shopping at the Abingdon Farmers Markets’ Holiday Market with vendors selling produce, meats, baked goods, clothing accessories, jewelry, paintings, wine, confections, and canned goods.

Big Band Holidays, Lynchburg – The recently renovated historic Academy of Music Theater hosts the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, bringing out the magic of the holiday with soulful renditions of holiday classics.

When it snows, ain’t it thrilling; though your nose, gets a chilling; we’ll frolic and play, the Eskimo way; walking in a [Main Street] wonderland!

Find out more >>

Ashland’s Light Up the Tracks

The Destination Express: Enhancing the Visitor Experience with History

The Ashland Main Street Association and its local partners are dedicated to making downtown an amazing destination.  How?  By embracing their transportation history they are improving the visitor experience and creating memorable central gathering spaces. Executive Director Tom Wulf is our guest blogger with the details.    

Earlier in 2017, mural artist Ed Trask and his team finished a masterpiece on the side of the Caboose Wine & Cheese shop in downtown Ashland–a 250 foot long rendering of a locomotive that traveled Ashland’s tracks 50 years ago. The mural honors the late Art McKinney, former owner of the building and great steward of his historic properties, depicted at the train’s helm as the engineer. I captured the entire mural using a video drone.

The mural is one of several exhibits for the proposed Mid-Atlantic Railroad Park. The park will also include the installation of train-related artifacts as public art exhibits along the key corridor into downtown, England Street. This initiative will not only encourage walking tours along England Street, it will also strengthen Ashland’s brand as a railroad town.

The concept aligns with one of Ashland Main Street’s key strategic priorities, extend the Railroad Avenue [Ashland’s “Main Street”] experience to the England Street corridor.  A railroad park will spread the pedestrian-friendly feel of Railroad Avenue throughout the district and increase foot traffic to England Street restaurants and retailers.

The Ashland Main Street Association will host the upcoming Virginia Main Street Regional Rev-Up, Start with “Why”: Creating Purpose-driven Special Events, November 8, 10 AM – 2 PM.  Register today and experience Ashland up close!

Start With “Why”: Creating Purpose-driven Special Events

On October 24, 26 and November 8 in St. Paul, Franklin, and Ashland, the fall edition of the Regional Rev Up workshops will equip your Main Street program with the tools you need to develop events that add up to meaningful change.

When taking on a special event or festival, what guides your allocation of limited financial and human resources?  Is that resource allocation strategic?

Simply put, why does your event exist?  Your goal is an authentic Main Street with a vibrant downtown business environment, and special events can support this mission; however, not all events are created equal.  Given the investment of time, energy, and resources it is essential that you take the time to reflect and evaluate the investment and the event. Why is this the event to impact your Main Street for the better?

Join us for a half-day workshop that will be educational, inspiring, and entertaining! Collaborate with community revitalization leaders, network with peers and explore ideas in the interactive sessions.  Learn:

  • To think strategically about events, before, during and after;
  • How to evaluate events for strategic improvement, deletion or handing off to a partner organization; and
  • Successful event ideas that connect to your organizational priorities or Transformation Strategies.

Registration is free. Lunch will cost $15 and is only payable by cash on site at the event.  Registration for each Rev-Up session closes one week prior to the event, so register now to reserve your spot!

 

Train Day – Ashland Main Street Association

Abingdon, Ashland and Manassas Main Street programs receive matching tourism grants

Governor Bob McDonnell recently announced that three Main Street organizations would receive matching tourism grants as part of Virginia Tourism Corporation’s (VTC) Marketing Leverage Grant program. Abingdon Main Street will receive $5,000 for its “Shop, Dine, Play and Stay in Downtown” campaign; Historic Manassas, Inc. will receive $4,250 for a website makeover; and the Ashland Main Street Association will receive $5,000 for its “Find Your Passion in Ashland: The center of the universe” initiative.

The grants are designed to help local and regional tourism entities attract more visitors by leveraging local marketing dollars. The local organizations match the state grant funds by a minimum of 2:1 in order to support marketing projects.

These grants enable local tourism partners to pursue projects that might otherwise be beyond their budget. The Marketing Leverage Grants program is a powerful tool in helping to support and grow a robust economy in Virginia. Our local partners are working on amazing projects and campaigns that will help to beautify communities, bring more visitors to Virginia and create even more outstanding tourism products that visitors will continue to fall in love with year after year.” – Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation

Tourism is an instant revenue generator for Virginia. In 2012 tourism generated $21.2 billion in revenue, supported 210,000 jobs and provided $1.36 billion in state and local taxes. Dollars invested in tourism are proven to provide a 5:1 return in tax revenue for Virginia, and the grant awards and matching funds provide a stimulus to localities seeking to increase tourism visitation and revenue.

The next round of VTC Marketing Leverage Program grants will open in spring 2014. Localities interested in applying may visit www.vatc.org for more information.

Governor McDonnell announces designation of two new Virginia Main Street communities

On June 7, Governor Bob McDonnell announced the designation of two new Virginia Main Street communities. With the addition of Ashland and Fredericksburg to the network, the total number of designated Virginia Main Street communities now stands at 26.

“I am pleased to welcome these communities to the Virginia Main Street program,” said Governor McDonnell. “By supporting local economic revitalization strategies, leveraging private investment and utilizing Main Street program resources these communities can spark entrepreneurship and job creation in their historic downtowns.”

Each community brings a unique set of historic assets and strategic focus to its revitalization work. Ashland is strengthening ties with its local college and building on the local quality of life of an historic railroad town. Downtown Fredericksburg’s remarkable historic architectural heritage and location provides significant opportunities for increased private investment and business development in the downtown.

 Virginia Main Street will provide technical assistance, training, and expert resources to assist the communities with aligning resources and achieving their downtown development goals. A program of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, Virginia Main Street uses the National Main Street Four Point Approach® model to encourage private investment and job creation in Virginia’s downtowns. The program helps communities develop strategies that create economic growth and pride in their downtown areas.

Video: VMS Intern Margaret Barre’s downtown revitalization effort featured in news

VMS Intern Margaret BarreAs part of a downtown commercial revitalization course at Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Main Street intern Margaret Barre and her colleagues have developed a revitalization strategy for the community of Ashland.  The real-world case study ended in a presentation to the Town Council.  Watch the NBC-12 news video to learn more about the student’s strategic recommendations.