This Friday there is a block party for the square of land that is 200 North Main Street. The reason for the party is no particular reason at all. Sure, with Memorial Day just past it is the unofficial start of summer. The party is an unofficial celebration of the block being fully occupied again. And it is just officially a fun thing to do.
The current forecast is for very warm and partly cloudy, but this party is not only outside, it is inside, so you can pop in some shaded and even some air-conditioned buildings. It won’t be the sweat fest you’re imagining. There’s outside stuff like living here funk musicians, a few local irrepressible artists, some goofy lawn games, and a very fluffy petting zoo.
Inside stuff like food (yes, just food), Italian ice cream, pinball wizard and eye-popping arcade games, and oh so lovely air conditioning. It is from 4 to 9 p.m. this Friday, so it overlaps the Farmers Market as well across the street. For more info go to thetrustydiner.com/blockparty.
The 200 block of North Main has made a long road back from multiple fires in the last three decades. There’s five buildings where there once was nine, (counting the funeral home). All four missing buildings burned, and it is 5fivemissing by fire if you cross the 20 feet of Panola Street to where the Blackmur Hotel once stood and count that once great building. Fires made a huge hole in the center of town.
Last week on the front page there was an article about the city’s fire rating improving. The rating system works like this; 10 is the worst, 1 is the best. Water Valley’s rating has gone from a 7 to 6. A very good sign. That means, in theory, a slight drop in your property insurance bill. Look for it. This is where a nice smiley face emoticon should be. Normally a rating drop like that means a small percentage decrease in the insurance rate.
It is hard to have a number 1 fire rating, only 200 cities in the country have status. The best in Mississippi is a 3. But even a jump to being a 3 would mean a significant savings, like a 30 percent drop in your property insurance bill. That would mean many hundreds of dollars per year savings for the average home owner.
The rating system is not that complex. The rating grade comes from three areas; 10 percent is emergency communication ability, 40 percent is water supply infrastructure like hydrants and pressure and flow, and 50 percent is equipment and manpower.
In this last part, the manpower (it can be women firefighters, too) I’ll say straight up, I’m very biased. My great uncle was the Superintendent for many years for a major city fire department, my two brothers are still decades long career firefighters, a district chief and a captain. If you ask them or any professional firefighter what they do, the response is saving lives first (people and animals) and protecting and saving property, second. And that’s about it. This is an altruistic profession, because risking themselves in the saving people and places is good for all.
Because when fires start or your heart stops, response time is everything. A big red fully equipped truck manned with four emergency medical capable professional firefighters getting there quicker than anybody is who will save your sorry life and earthy possessions. We’ve lost people and places because we did not have that capability here.
I’d rather pay more for firefighters and less in insurance and have the way more important benefit saving of people and places.
Imagine if all those buildings were still there on the 200 block of North Main, with businesses and jobs in them. Imagine if the Blackmur Hotel was still standing and once again a downtown hotel with people visiting and dining there. One need look no further than Greenwood or Oxford to see how small hotels have created jobs and energy downtown. It’d be a different block party on 200 North Main, for sure.