Main Street Matters: Spotlight on Childress (Part 1)

Editor’s note: This month’s Main Street Matters feature is a series of three posts from the communities that joined the Texas Main Street Program in 2013—Childress, Cuero, and San Augustine. These posts reflect upon each city’s first year in the program, which is primarily focused on planning and organizational work needed to lay a strong foundation for future success. During the year, there’s also the need to undertake relevant, visible, and achievable projects to create that Main Street “vibe.” Read on to learn how each city fared.

By Susan Leary, Childress Main Street Manager

The first year of the Childress Main Street Program is complete. It was, to say the least, a learning experience. I don’t know if there is anything as overwhelming as starting a new program. Bylaws, committees, boards, meetings, training, reports, and just wrapping your head around it all—well, that is enough for the first year!

The First Lady's Texas Main Street Tour was a great success, with about 200 in attendance on an early March morning. (See the April 2013 and January 2014 issues of Main Street Matters for images of the 2013 First Lady’s Tour.) Childress Elementary, Boy Scouts, and the First United Methodist Choir were just some of the highlights. Mrs. Perry’s graciousness flowed throughout the event, and when it was over everyone was smiling. We were on our way as a Main Street city!

The Advisory Board was formed and Adam Bishop, LeeAnn Dean, Russell Graves, Dave Griminger, Sharon Johnson, Brian Pierce, and Shelly Preston have led us well this first year. New banners in our Main Street District highlighted our railroad heritage with our iconic 501 Engine as the inspiration. Those were hung in May, and work began on the Armstrong (501) Park to bring it to life. Shauna Garrison and Keep Childress Beautiful have created a very nice landscape, and new benches will be added this spring. The park will be dedicated to Dalton Reese, an avid gardener and friend who we lost way too early.

Once the bylaws were written we began to look for ways to bring folks to downtown. We worked on an inventory list of what exactly was in downtown Childress. We have retail, hair salons, barbershops, plumbers, electricians, auto supply stores, a library, insurance agencies, an abstract office, storage facilities, churches, government entities, restaurants, eye doctors, an orthodontist, engineering firms, a home health agency, financial entities, and housing! We have a theatre under restoration, a new Health and Human Services building, vacant buildings, and several buildings in need of TLC. We worked with the Texas Historical Commission (THC) on a survey to help us qualify for our downtown to be eventually recognized as a National Register Historic District. THC Main Street officials also brought a resource team to our community during the summer, completed an analysis of our downtown, and returned a report that has given us many ideas for the future.

As a result of new businesses, building projects, and general upkeep, plus the Armstrong Park renovation and the new banners, more than $600,000 was reinvested in downtown Childress in 2013!

Childress Main Street hosted Dancing on Main with great results in August. More than 200 adults and kids danced, ate ice cream, and had fun—it looks like an annual event was born! In October, Main Street hosted Downtown Trick or Treating along with the First United Methodist Church, First Baptist Church, and the Childress Women’s Council Chili Supper. The night ended with our very first (but not last) Zombie Crawl! The whole event was a great time, and we look forward to next year’s fun. We finished the year with a booth and a movie at the Childress Christmas Festival. Whew!

We have prided ourselves in working with as many established events as possible. We help promote the event and participate if possible. One of the best lessons learned this year would be that we don’t have to do it all. Everything that happens downtown is part of our Main Street program. Other activities enhance our efforts and keep people interested in what we’re doing. We strive to form alliances, whether in the community or through the fabulous Texas Main Street Program and its people!

This post is a modified version of the feature article in Main Street Matters, a monthly newsletter published by our Texas Main Street Program. It is part of a series of case studies that highlight successful initiatives and events of Texas Main Street cities.

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