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August 1, 2003

Something of unusual significance occurred the other night at the Heritage Center when the Main Street of Perry organization handed out its awards at the annual announcement of prize winners for the past year. Strictly speaking, everything that night was significant in its own right, but I am choosing to focus on one subject—the effort to have our entire downtown placed on the national register of historic places.

We have earned that right. Perry is one of the few Cherokee Strip county seats that have always celebrated the opening of this land to settlement on September 16, 1893. In many ways, we have demonstrated a serious interest in the heritage we claim as descendants of those brave souls who "made the run," then endured countless hardships in the process of turning this beautiful land into productive acreages.

Right now Main Street people are in the midst of a renaissance effort to bring back some of the old excitement and energy to our downtown, which truly, is a large historic depository of infinite value. We were told at the Main Street meeting that formal presentation for the "historic" designation has been made at the state level, where it was enthusiastically received, and our bid now goes to a higher group for, confirmation at the national level. Our local authorities have been given reason to believe that we should clear that hurdle successfully, perhaps in time for announcement at the Cherokee Strip celebration in September.

The local entry was prepared by many hands, but one who surely deserves a large measure of credit is Marsha Williams. She has been designated "volunteer of the year" in the local Main Street program. A lot of her time and energy were channeled into the project with equal vigor. Marsha will be the first to tell you that others had a hand in that project, but she's the one who rode herd on it and in the end drew all the fragments of it together.

It's always dangerous in assigning credit for things like this, and, yes, many others did provide help and input. Marilee Macias, for one, initiated a similar effort a few years back but the regulations imbedded in the process proved unpopular and the project was set aside for a while. In more recent years, Clyde Speer, son of long-time Noble county residents, revived the effort as president of Main Street but had to turn the job over to others after a harmonious launch. I know other names could be included here, but it is difficult to determine who all of them are and it is inevitable that some will be left out. Anyone who contributed to this effort in any way should get a pat on the back from the rest of us.

The historic designation will open many doors of opportunity. We can invite tour groups to make Perry a stop any time they are in this vicinity. That means we need to get to work now—cleaning up the eyesores, clearing away the unsightly abandoned buildings that plague us, and just generally sprucing things up all over the town, not just in the business district. Thanks to those who have brought us this close. Now, the rest of us can roll up our sleeves and take it to the next stage.