Small town, big dreams

By Jesalyn C. Cole, Executive Director, Historic Downtown Prosser Association

Nestled between the Horse Heaven Hills and the Rattlesnake Hills along I-82, you’ll find the distinct little town of Prosser, Washington. We are a community built on generations of hard work, loyalty, integrity, and pride. A few of our claims to fame include our wineries, Chukar Cherries, and our mighty Mustang High School athletics.

In 1882, Colonel William Farrand Prosser (who later became a Washington State Historical Society forefather) settled in the Yakima River Valley where he founded the town of Prosser. In 1893, an irrigation system that served 2,000 acres was built, and dry land wheat farming commenced in the Horse Heaven and Rattlesnake Hills. One year after that, the Northern Pacific Railroad laid tracks through the area. The City of Prosser was officially incorporated in 1899, and Prosser continued to grow. The irrigation system was increased by 12,000 acres, and, in 1905, Benton County was formed with Prosser as its seat. In 1908, the Sunnyside Canal was extended to bring water to another 5,000 acres.

Today, Prosser thrives on an economy rooted in agriculture and tourism, boasting over 300 days of sunshine each year. The Historic Downtown Prosser Association (HDPA) was established in 2006 by community members dedicated to the preservation, enhancement, and revitalization of Prosser’s historic downtown core. There is always something going on downtown: live productions at the historic Princess Theatre, community Easter egg hunting and trick-or-treating, art and wine walks, Old Fashioned 4th of July celebration, States Day parade and festivities, Hot Air Balloon Rally and Harvest Festival, Streetscapes Classic Car Show, Pumpkin Palooza, and so much more! Our little town keeps active.

We may be small in population, but we dream big! Over the course of two years, HDPA and community members were involved in a large-scale visioning process that yielded specific project ideas involving art and downtown beautification with plants and landscaping. One project has already been completed through our mini-critter installments of small murals painted in thirteen locations throughout the downtown. Animals native to the area were selected and then painted in whimsical scenes by local artists for passersby to enjoy.

Other projects necessitate funding and so began the search for grant opportunities. We were excited to receive notification on May 11 that we were selected as a National Main Street Center “Made on Main” $25,000 grant recipient! OneMain Financial funds six national grants annually to Main Street communities to complete specific projects within the town. We are very excited and thankful for the opportunity to see more visioning projects come to fruition because of this funding! From this grant, we will be investing in planters and native grasses for downtown and trash receptacles to finish a streetscape project begun years ago. Also included are new planter and banner brackets for our light poles to hang our flower baskets and start a banner program.

All of the ideas from the visioning process are meant to draw attention and investment into our historic downtown district, which is home to a high concentration of independent small businesses, such as Horse Heaven Saloon, Brewminatti, Sixth Street Art & Gift Gallery, and many more. Big things are happening in Prosser and we’d love for you to come and see!

This article was published in the July 2018 issue of the Washington Trust’s quarterly magazine, This Place.

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