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Main Street Prepares for Bloom'n the Block Saturday

By Vy Townsend Malcik Staff Writer
March 23, 2012 at 3 a.m.

Saturday at 9:24 am expect to see a huge change in Downtown Grand Saline. A single day is the place to begin! That is when flowers, food, fun along with music, markets, museums and artists, antiques and amusements will greet the town's citizens for a day of <em style="bold">Bloom'n The Block</em>.

Lead by its Main Street organization, the city will attempt to do something that has never been done before in East Texas. Volunteers plan to totally transform their previously-challenged two-block historic Main Street into a vibrant new streetscape in just a single day.

Main Street Manager Lisa Morrison is spearheading the event which is part of the new "Restore 24" revitalization program. "This 24-hour project is designed to show our community, along with the potential business, the value of our historic district.

"We are combining our former Blooming Festival with an event where we can showcase our downtown for the day." Morrison said. "We plan to do everything we can to show off what our downtown district has to offer."

Main Street, between Highway 80 and Pacific Street, will see new life starting with staged trees, shrubs and flowers along the two-block area. Volunteers will set up temporary "vintage" street lights, add café tables to the sidewalks and set out a piano that anyone may play.

Several locations will feature a farmers' market, beekeepers, bakery, fried pie vendor and antique corn mill that will grind your cornmeal as you wait.

The spirit of cooperation and giving -- something that small East Texas towns are known for -- will shine as nursery vendor workers will donate their pay that day to the youth group at their church. The sweets sold will help fund Relay for Life in May.

"Downtown is about life," said Morrison. "We want to remind everyone what a great asset we have in our downtown and let them see what an integral part the district can play in developing a great quality of life for the people of our community."

Visitors can enjoy a coffee bar inside the Salt Museum – with free Wi-Fi for the day, so people will be able to sit, sip and visit as they play on their laptops. Locally crafted quilts and other artwork will be on display.

A video gaming lounge for older children and teens will have flat screen TVs with X-Box and Playstation 3 entertainment systems. Younger children will have a special art room where they can try their hands at various crafts.

Strolling musicians, street artists and open-air karaoke will delight visitors who can enjoy a lunch in a vacant restaurant space, sponsored by Main Street both as a fundraiser and to show the value a food business can play in the revitalization efforts.

Different music venues are slated for the numerous talented musicians in the area. Pickin' Porch will be for acoustics and singing while Concert Corner will present school and church music groups as well as local bands. Praise Parkway will include gospel and praise singing and Christian bands.

During this election year, there will even be a time and a spot for political candidates to visit with their constituents, kiss the babies and talk about the needs of the city and county.

For those who need to take a rest from all the activity, Main Street workers will have benches, tables and chairs for enjoying the sights and sounds from a seated position. Others nearby can play horseshoes, washers and a "giant" checker game.

In addition to the new look, Main Street will be adding another unique element to the mix, according to Morrison. Working with property owners, vacant storefronts will feature "Pop –Up" businesses to give an even more authentic feel to the transformation efforts.

These have been successful in other parts of the country for several years, but this is a new venture in East Texas. The idea is to give a small business the opportunity to introduce itself to the community without all the normal start-up expenses.

Morrison is optimistic about the idea. "The program is great for our town because it offers new shopping options. It is great for our building owners because they can get revenues from otherwise empty storefronts, and it is great for the Main Street district because it breathes life back into the area."

Several new businesses have committed to selling their wares that day. A boutique with jewelry, home décor and gifts will be open, another "store" will offer new and vintage aprons, linens and bonnets. A baby boutique will be open that is bound to delight every grandmother who walks in it.

This event is the first of four phases called "Restore 24." Designed as a two-year effort to revitalize the downtown district, Main Street volunteers have planned this event to last for 24 hours. Events for 24 days, 24 weeks and 24 months are in the works.

"It's about building momentum," Morrison said. "We believe if we can set achievable short, medium and long-range goals that in two years we will look back and be amazed at what we have been able to accomplish. This inaugural Bloom'n The Block event is our kick-off to reaching all of our goals!"

This Saturday morning lend your bloomin' smile to all the festivities and watch what Grand Saline can be again! See you at 9:24.



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