The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

February 1, 2013

Spirit of Athens reflects on 2012 at luncheon

By Rebecca Croomes

— As Athens was listed ninth in the top 10 places to live in Alabama by yesterday, Judge Mike Davis stood before a crowd of local business owners, government officials and individuals alike to summarize what they were all there to say.

“It’s a real exciting time in our community.”

The Spirit of Athens group met for a luncheon Thursday to review 2012, hand out awards and look ahead for this year.

With the success of the Grease Festival last fall, Davis said the group is getting a handle on what the community needs to build up and sustain pride for its residents.

“Our identity is downtown Athens — the Square,” Davis said. “As a citizen, I applaud revitalization. It is the quality of life that attracts people to our community.”

Spirit of Athens Director Trisha Black presented a slideshow about the success of the Grease Festival that she had previously given to a conference of small-town governments in Mississippi. She outlined the process by which the festival came about and some ideas for this year’s event, scheduled for Sept. 28.

In all, Black said the festival brought in approximately 5,000 visitors and more than $10,000 in revenue that went toward replacing string lights around the Square.

Black also ran down a list of other happenings planned for this year, including a “Chocolate Walk” on Saturday, Feb. 9, where those who reserve tickets will be given a map of downtown locations to visit and receive treats. Black said only 25 of the 100 reserve tickets have been handed out.

In addition to other seasonal events, like an organized Easter egg hunt and trick or treat during Halloween, Black said a revitalized Farmers Market would open the first Saturday of April with a festival atmosphere featuring live music.

The buzz about the room concerned the recent announcement of the acquiring of the W.E. Estes & Sons building by Huntsville-based H.C. Blake Inc, which plans to turn a substantial portion of the floor space into studios for artists.

The program concluded with the presentation of awards for last year’s work. Athens art-store owner Carole Foret gave the Spirit of Giving award to the Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful committee. The Downtown Revitalization award was given to Wayne Kyukendall by SOA board president Derrick Young; Kyukendall’s firm was responsible for renovating some downtown facades, including the new Shoe Gallery 2 store on Marion Street.

“Everything that’s been done has been done right,” Young said.

SOA board member Tony McCormack gave the Friend of Downtown title to the Athens Public Works Department and director, Dolph Bradford.

“They do a job at one-hundred percent,” McCormack said. “They have pride in what they do and they have pride in Athens.”

As Bradford accepted the award, he cut straight to the point.

“We wanna make things better — got any ideas?”

Athens City Planner Mac Martin presented the final award of Volunteer of the Year to Grease Festival chairwoman Christy Hubbard, who was unable to attend.