August 28, 1998
Our city made some new friends earlier this week during the hands-on workshop held here by the Oklahoma Main Street organization. Some 70 visitors representing various Main Street programs from throughout the state were here to learn how to strip away phony "modernistic" facades or paint jobs from the fronts of business buildings and to restore them to their originally intended beauty. It's like going back to the future, or deja vu all over again. What's old is hot right now, and our business district is taking the first steps to catch the wave.
Thanks to the congenial hospitality provided by dozens of Perry citizens, the visitors went away with a good impression of this community. Many of them also are in awe of what's going on here, with signs of vigor and excitement in evidence throughout the city. I heard many exclamations of good-natured envy as the visitors toured the courthouse park and surrounding business area Sunday evening. The wide new sidewalks and the period street lights quickly caught the eye of the visiting Main Street managers and board members, and they wanted to know now we managed to get it done.
The workshop was not a fun thing. Temperatures, ranging up to 108 degrees made working conditions almost unbearable and a few folks were treated for heat problems, but a professionally manned first aid station was provided for that purpose. Frequent breaks were ordered and all visitors were cautioned to drink as much water as possible and to avoid overdoing their work projects. The workshop attendees normally don't get down and dirty in their hometowns - they are, after all, managers - but they seemed not to mind the extreme temperatures and the manual labor they performed here because they realized they were learning the techniques of doing things that will improve their own business districts.
Dramatic changes already are evident in our community as a result of this workshop, and there will be more to follow. The upstairs portions of several buildings around the square are destined to be converted to residential space, and this will add more vitality and focus to the downtown area. More Perry property owners are looking at the Main Street program and making their plans to join in. The potential for development is limited only by our hesitancy to take the plunge. Main Street offers the means and the plans, plus substantial assistance, in getting such things done.
Those with questions should contact Betty Warner, Perry Main Street program manager, or Mark Dement, president of the local group's board of directors. They have the information on how to proceed and they will be glad to work with anyone. They also can direct inquirers to the capable staff of the Oklahoma Main Street program in Oklahoma City. Many of the state level people played a big part in the workshop.
In the meantime, Perry Main Street workers can reflect back on the workshop that just concluded here and feel proud of the job they performed. Their hard work and cordial reception of visitors will pay off in many ways for this community. If you haven't been downtown lately, you now have a great excuse to come see what's going on around the Perry square.
Remember, all the work thus far is merely a prelude. There is much more to be done. Volunteers, like all those generous Perryans who pitched in with their time and labor this week, are still very much needed. You're welcome to join the fun!