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Street Talk

Water Valley was in Jackson last Thursday to receive an award. Some of us, anyway, were at the Old Capitol Inn as part of the statewide Main Street awards. We were there for a significant award –  an award not for any one thing in particular, but well, for everything. Jeff Bynum accepted for all of us. If you don’t know Jeff, he is an officer at Mechanics Bank and president of the Water Valley Main Street Association.

It is a big award. It is the best cumulative statewide recognition for a Main Street town in Mississippi. Here is the award name and definition; “Outstanding Community Transformation Award – This is an overall award that goes to a Main Street program that has achieved a successful, preservation-based downtown revival. The Main Street program has accomplished major goals in downtown revitalization and has both qualitative and quantitative examples to show the measurable impact. A heavy emphasis should be placed on the human resources it took to accomplish the work.”

The award was given to the WVMSA, but really this award is for the whole town. Last year on WVMSA’s 10th anniversary we thanked, via full page ad in this paper, 426 people who had made this Main Street come back. The reality is the number is way larger, for it takes an entire community to do that.

This award made me think about the first statewide honor in 2009. It was for the Better Back Street effort in the category of best public project. Better Back Street cleaned up Duncan Street and the backside of Main Street buildings on Duncan. 

It was an idea by Jessie Gurner via a Mississippi State’s First Impressions report. That project pulled people and energy from the new formed WVMSA, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the City of Water Valley, downtown property owners, and the Methodist youth group. Kind of a strange mix.

The work was not to clean up Main Street, though that was needed, but to clean up Duncan, a backstreet to Main. Work first on the not-so-obvious, start small, use what is already at hand and needs attention, and do it yourself.

Of course, a decade ago the front of Main Street buildings needed love, but backs were even worse.  Urban grunge. The back street was used daily by many. Duncan Street has really come along, in addition to the project, major investments by Mechanics Bank and Fred’s have really made the short street way better looking and active.

It seems to me the Back Street project in the fall of 2008 was the seminal effort for the WVMSA. I’ve talked about it from the Calhoun City Rotary Club to the White House.  I often say why we started in back and not front, is you want your backside to look as good as your frontside. You know that’s true. And everyone in the town should pat themselves on the shoulder or wherever for winning this award. You earned it. 

We moved the Farmers Market back to Saturday mornings because it is cooler and dryer in the morning. Not so last week, it rained like crazy from 9 to 10 am, but the vendors rode it out and sure enough it was hot, humid, and sunny by 10:30. People came out and the market ended on a good note. We’re back at it again this Saturday morning, from 8 to 11 a.m.

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