Stillwater has, in recent years, pushed to get more events running downtown, but events downtown have always struggled.
Merry Main Street, a new Christmas focused event, hopes to fix this.
While some programs like OSU Walk-Around have managed to increase student traffic
downtown, none of them have seen a steady flow past the initial event. Some events like
Stillwater Music Festival have been able to pull several dozen participants but still don’t see the student participation they would like.
One of the most obvious obstacles is the divide between downtown and OSU. While not a long walk, it has been a struggle to get students to make the trek from campus.
Merry Main Street plans to fix this problem by consolidating several different events and adding events that appeal to students.
“We’re hoping that the draw of live music and Iron Monk’s beer garden will bring students
downtown,” City Councilor Alane Zannotti said. “We’re hoping to provide an opportunity to
take a break from classes and see what’s happening over the holidays.”
Concerts, beer and shopping aren’t the only things Zannotti hope will bring students
downtown. It’s already a family environment, and there will be plenty of opportunities to bring
the family downtown to show them the home turf.
“We’ve got bedlam tailgating and OSU graduation coming up too,” Zannotti said. “If they have a rest where they don’t have anything to do, it’s a perfect opportunity to bring the family while all this other stuff is going on.”
The second issue that seems to plague downtown events is Husband Street.
Creating a one block divide down the middle of downtown, this barrier seems to be an invisible obstacle to creating a cohesive downtown area. Events like OSU Walk Around have attempted to tackle this by including main street businesses and event locations like the Stillwater Community Center. This slowly tethered off though as businesses lost interest.
“We’re being very mindful about making sure the decor is similar all throughout downtown,”
Zannotti said. “We are using decorations to lead people down ninth street so that there is a
defined path to lead you downtown.
“We are also being mindful to include maps at the domes and the downtown merchants so that there is plenty of information about what is happening throughout downtown. The maps will show people where everything is and people will be willing to walk if they find something that interests them.”
Merry Main Street plans to tackle this issue by including the Downtown Merchants Association.
“We are meeting with the downtown merchants association every month,” Zannotti said.
“First we just pitched this to them back in the summer. We told them we wanted to put stuff on Block 34, which has struggled past, but we want you (downtown businesses) to be involved.”
Meetings for the merchant domes on Block 34 will actually be held in the downtown
merchants’ offices, and many merchants have already got on board by painting their windows or renting out one of the domes.
“For us it has been critical to make sure everyone is up to date, and the merchants are thrilled because they fill involved and like it’s going to be for everyone,” Zannotti said.
As this is the first event of its kind, hopefully it’s able to jump these seemingly impossible
chasms to create a unified downtown.
Written by Isaac Dennis.