Main Street Alabama celebrated local program successes at the eighth annual Awards of Excellence the evening before Governor Kay Ivey proclaimed August 20th Main Street Alabama Day. The day recognizes the efforts of the organization that is focused on creating jobs and keeping character in communities across the state.

During the Awards of Excellence program, Main Street Alabama’s President and State Coordinator, Mary Helmer Wirth, honored projects and individuals that made tremendous impacts in their respective communities. Alabama Municipal Electric Authority sponsored the event that was held at The Venue at Coosa Landing in Gadsden.

Foley Main Street garnered two awards. The first was in Promotion. creating a quality authentic event that generates traffic for the district. The Event is The Snowbird Coffee. The lead in this event is the City of Foley headed up by LaDonna Hinesley. The Snowbird Coffee is an annual event welcoming our Snowbirds to the area and introducing them to Downtown Foley. This event is a partnership with the City of Foley, Foley Main Street and South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce.  This year was especially hard because of COVID AND Hurricane Sally impacting the event. Instead of an indoor event, an inverted parade was held.  We had stations to drive through to pick up coupons, scavenger hunt sheets and instructions, refreshments, and information packets.

The scavenger hunt was redesigned as well. It used to be only one day. Due to COVID, the time period was extended to an entire week. “Snowbirds are the reason that many of our area businesses excel during the winter months.  With COVID and the Hurricane, the October influx of snowbirds did not happen. We were hoping that the December wave of snowbirds would arrive. The weather was a cold 38 degrees with a brisk wind so we were bundled up for sub-zero weather – the Snowbirds got a kick about us ‘being overdressed’ while they were in their cars usually in shorts and Hawaiian shirts.” Darrelyn Dunmore commented.

The Second Award was in Excellence in Public Relations recognizing Main Street organizations that have developed an effective public relations program of work. Foley Main Street was recognized for their Downtown Foley Branding public relations campaign.

They created excitement for the Downtown Foley Branding utilizing small groups, traditional media, and social media.  Eleven focus groups were held with an avg of 7-10 people. They created a social media countdown for 21 days with 21 different words used by focus group attendees to describe Downtown Foley. Local television stations and newspapers cover the Branding Reveal and did stories on Foley Main Street. The twenty-one countdown posts had 379 likes, 18 shares, and 2083 views. The two unveiling logo posts had 1,490 likes, 189 shares, and 241 views.

Chad Watkins has served as President of the Foley Main Street Board of Directors since its inception:

“These awards represent the hard work of the organization and our partners during its second year of existence.  I am proud to be a part of this group that works on preserving and improving the heart of Foley.”

Foley Main Street chose Riviera Utilities as their 2020 Main Street Hero.  They will be presented with their award at the Riviera Utilities Board meeting.  General Manager Tom DeBell and former employee Sherry Sullivan served on Foley Main Street’s inaugural board. Riviera Utilities Board member Barbara Ingram has served on Foley Main Street’s Inaugural Board as well and serves currently. Riviera Utilities has given unwavering support to our Foley Main Street program since Foley Main Street’s inception giving generously of their money, time, and talents. Besides being one of the top sponsors, Riviera allowed employees to help with the 2020 Lucky to Love Foley event when volunteers were in short supply due to the scare of COVID. Riviera Utilities also supported our “support local restaurants campaign”. They stepped up and challenged other businesses to support downtown restaurants and to organize group lunches for their employees. Riviera Utilities did weekly orders from local restaurants for over three months, averaging 10 lunches or more.

Most importantly during and after Hurricane Sally, they worked around the clock to get our businesses open for business. They were instrumental in getting downtown Foley quickly back online. This was especially critical with the double whammy of COVID and Hurricane Sally.

“It’s an honor to recognize these outstanding community projects, leaders and volunteers,” Wirth said. “The award winners represent the resiliency of downtown and commercial neighborhood districts in spite of a challenging year. Main Street programs were instrumental in helping small businesses navigate through closures due to the pandemic and helping them to reopen safely with outdoor eating options, hand sanitizing stations, foot door pulls, masks and more. The effort and leadership it takes to move these projects quickly is tremendous.”

The Awards of Excellence Banquet is a highlight of LAB, a three-day conference that bolsters the efforts of communities participating in the nationally acclaimed Main Street program or those communities interested in downtown revitalization. The eighth annual event drew over 150 community leaders from Alabama.

Main Street Alabama has 29 Designated Programs and over 30 Downtown Network Communities. Alexander City, Anniston, Athens, Atmore, Birmingham’s Historic 4th Ave Business District, Calera, Columbiana, Decatur, Dothan, Elba, Enterprise, Eufaula, Florence, Foley, Fort Payne, Gadsden, Headland, Heflin, Jasper, Marion, Monroeville, Montevallo, Opelika, Oxford, Scottsboro, South Huntsville, West Huntsville, and Wetumpka each have Designated Programs and new communities will be added annually. Application workshops will be held in January for communities interested in becoming a Designated Program will be available in spring 2022. Until then, communities interested in downtown revitalization can participate in Main Street Alabama’s Downtown Network.

Main Street Alabama focuses on bringing jobs, dollars, and people back to Alabama’s historic communities. Economic development is at the heart of our efforts to revitalize downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts.