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Street Talk

Community Voices Will Rise This Saturday

By Mickey Howley

Last week the Water Valley Main Street Association wrote the first $500 check for the Downtown Facade Grant program. Sherry Gray, who along with her brother, is the owner of the building on 209 North Main, accepted the check. This building houses the salon Hair Trendz.

 Sherry’s mom Betty Ruth Swearengen was the first person to apply for the grant when Main Street introduced the program a year ago. At the time, some of the store front glass was cracked, and Ms. Betty Ruth knew the cracks came from decay and settling of the front lower facade. The painted wood lower facade was decayed with age. These were just the most obvious indicators of some delayed upkeep and failing materials.  

Betty Ruth, a member of the WVMSA, wanted not only the grant money for facade improvements, but help with design ideas. The Main Street design committee showed her an example of a building in Eupora recently renovated by Belinda Stewart Architects, a building that won best facade renovation in state for 2009, that was similar in age and size to hers. She liked the clean simplicity of the “retro” style, as it brought the building close to its original look from the 1910s: a simple entrance way, transom glass above the storefront, and exposed structural steel supports for the facade header. The most modern adjustment was the bib awning.  Where the original would have been a roll-out cloth awning, the bib awning sits high and does not overpower the new facade.  

As most of my regular readers know, Betty Ruth did not live to see the job completed, she passed away around the mid-point of the renovation. However, all of the critical decisions as to style, use of historical color, effect, and quality of materials were made by her. Peter Buchholz, who was in charge of the renovation, carried out her choices to the finished front you see today.  When I look at the new facade, I believe Betty Ruth would have been happy with the results, and this is a consolation to me.

In the past two weeks I have taken two widely different trips in Mississippi. The first was to Parchman Prison to see the dedication of the Mississippi Blues Trail Marker number 113. That’s right, there are 113 markers, 107 of which are in Mississippi. There is even a Mississippi Blues Trail Marker in Maine. Don’t believe me? Check out

The second trip was to “Crusin’ the Coast,” now in its 14th year and currently the biggest special event in the state of Mississippi with over 5,000 cars from 37 states and Canada. I can tell you Hwy 90 from Waveland to Ocean Springs is one big long loud chrome jam.  What both these events have in common is economic development.

Every year, the Blues Trail brings hundreds of thousands of people to this state, and Cruisin’ the Coast lines up a hundred thousand spectators on Hwy 90.  Events like the markers and the cruise bring needed and desired tourism dollars to this state and contribute to Mississippi’s economic diversity and health. I ended up contributing to the coast’s economy an unexpected $500 dollars for auto parts — all part of the fun of driving a 37 year old vehicle.

This Saturday, Oct. 16 starting at 2:30 at the City Park Bandstand is the first Community Sing Along sponsored by the Water Valley Arts Council. There will be music including gospel songs, barbershop quartets, old favorites, and new numbers. Come on out for a guaranteed good time.

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