RevitalizeWA Roadshow: Host Site Interviews
July 14, 2021 | 9:52 am
from Washington Trust
For this year’s RevitalizeWA conference, we’re taking it online and on the road for a week of hybrid learning, networking, and celebrating. After a fully virtual day on Monday, September 27, we’re thrilled to be traveling across the state for three locally hosted days of curated in-person learning, with stops including:
- Tuesday, September 28: Gig Harbor. Details.
- Wednesday, September 29: Prosser. Details.
- Friday, October 1: Colville. Details.
To help prepare for this roadshow, we caught up with the executive directors of these unique and exciting Main Street Communities.
Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance
Historic Downtown Prosser Association
What is your favorite story about your town – past or present?
Mary DesMarais (MD): Gig Harbor is steeped in maritime history with boat building and commercial fishing at the core of the development of the area. The annual “Blessing of the Fleet” is one of Gig Harbor’s most important events of the year, most especially for our revered, active fishing fleet. Our fishermen and women count on this blessing before heading off into dangerous Pacific waters.
Jesalyn Cole (JC): Prosser is a community that bands together and we look out for each other. There is tremendous support and a sense of family that is truly phenomenal. Small town pride is evident from the youngest to the oldest…once a Mustang, always a Mustang!
Rosemary Shaw (RS): One of the founding fathers of Colville was Mr. Hoffstetter. He owned the local beer brewery and insisted that Main Street be wide enough for him to turn the beer wagon around in the middle of the street. (The loggers also would turn around their wagons fully loaded with logs.) That is part of why Colville has such a nice wide Main Street with room for generous sidewalks.
Tell us about some of your experiences at RevitalizeWA in the past?
MD: I am annually inspired when given the opportunity to meet one-on-one or in small groups with my peers during RevitalizeWA. Each of our communities are unique in many ways, yet the challenges we face are incredibly similar. It is energizing and affirming to be able to share both victories and challenges with professionals who share a like mind-set and understanding of what it takes to have a successful Main Street Program.
JC: My first RevitalizeWA was in the spring of 2017 in Ellensburg. I had accepted the job as Executive Director in Prosser, but had not yet started. I remember feeling anxiously excited and was just trying to take it all in. The energy I felt from attendees was contagious and I knew I was embarking on an amazing adventure into the Main Street family!
RS: I have only been to one other RevitalizeWA. Port Townsend was my first experience. What I enjoyed most was getting to visit another community and see the things they do to make their community better. The speakers and tours are great, but my memories are richer from the times I was on my own or with a friend exploring the town.
What are you most looking forward to showing off in your downtown? What should on-site attendees not miss out on?
MD: The Main Street district of Gig Harbor is very different than most Main Streets across the state. Our unique district hugs the shoreline of beautiful Gig Harbor Bay for a mile and a half and includes a handful of businesses that line Pioneer Way and Judson Street, immediately up the hill from Harborview Drive, our “Main Street”. The majority of our historic buildings are fishing netsheds that dot our beautiful waterfront. Gig Harbor boasts the largest inventory of historic netsheds on the Puget Sound with 16 netsheds along our shoreline. Our netsheds appeared as early as 1910, many constructed with rough, hand-hewn fir, and were used by the local fisherman to store their nets and fishing gear. We are looking forward to sharing this unique aspect of Main Street during RevitalizeWA – the Roadshow.
JC: I love showing off any part of Prosser! But, what I’d really like to make sure people don’t miss on this visit is all of the art we’ve added over the last 4 years. We started with our mini critter murals ‘hidden’ throughout downtown. Then we worked on installing 20 uniquely designed and painted fiberglass ponies, all done by local artists. Finally, we have the addition of several new murals that have brought new life onto otherwise vacant spaces.
RS: Colville is a beautiful town with some excellent turn of the century buildings in an amazing natural setting. It is the hub of outdoor recreation in the area. We have a wonderful hiking and biking trail system just a few miles from downtown, the Colville Mountain Trail system. The trailhead is at the north end of Cedar Street. The Keller House is another of the hidden jewels in Colville. It was built in 1910 and fully furnished for $12,000. The home was donated to the city in 1966 by the Keller family with much of the original furnishing still in place.
Is your town known for any specific type of food or beverage?
MD: Gig Harbor’s small Main Street District is home to Heritage Distilling, a craft distillery located at the prime intersection on Harborview, and two craft breweries, Gig Harbor Brewing Co., and 7 Seas Brewing that sits right on the waterfront looking out at the mouth of the harbor and beyond to Mt. Rainier. In addition to offering popular beers, bourbons, and vodkas, all three of these locations have grown into extremely popular gathering places and have contributed tremendously to the economic vibrancy of downtown.
JC: Wine! We are surrounded by agriculture and so many different crops; from dry wheat fields to irrigated orchards filled with a variety of fruits. We have plenty of hop fields for beer and vineyards filled with grapes for juice and wine. Tasting rooms abound and there is something for everyone, whether you are in the mood for something light, sweet and crisp like a rosé or something much more robust and deep like a malbec. Our community is filled with award winning winemakers taking full advantage of the bounty in our area and we as residents reap the benefits of their talents!
RS: Colvillians love to forage for local delicacies, their favorites being huckleberries and morel mushrooms. Just don’t ask where their “spot” is!
Tell us a little about your Main Street organization. What are you most proud of?
MD: Most recently I would have to say I am especially proud of our response to Covid-19. We were able to respond swiftly and effectively to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. The existing relationships we already had with our business owners, and the trust that was built into that, enabled us to leverage resources and provide critical support to our downtown community. Most rewarding to staff was the affirmation and gratitude we received from our businesses throughout the pandemic.
In “normal” times, being the primary catalyst to get people into downtown, whether through events like our award-winning Girls Night Out, or presenting the Waterfront Farmers Market, we do all we can to keep our downtown flourishing and our businesses solvent.
JC: Our Main Street organization continues to grow in relevance as we successfully move from visioning to fruition of projects. We are proud to have recently completed a large project, which is our downtown wireless music system. It took patience and perseverance to plan for, budget and procure donations and grants in order to make it happen. It is rewarding to set goals, work toward them and finally be able to celebrate small and big wins together as an organization! We are also so proud of our volunteers. We get so much accomplished thanks to the dedication and countless hours so readily given to our downtown.
RS: 2020 was our first year as a Main Street Community. We are a new and small organization with some great volunteers and super supportive partner agencies. The City Of Colville, the Colville Chamber of Commerce, and Tri County Economic Development District (TEDD) have supported Colville Together substantially over the past three years as we worked to become a Main Street Community. This support has led to some of our greatest successes including in-kind rent support Colville Together, Façade and Building Improvement Grant, 90 Day Place Activation Technical assistance and other major construction and landscaping projects.
If your town were a hat, what kind of hat would it be?
MD: Given that Gig Harbor is known as the Maritime City, and the fact that we have an active fishing fleet, I think it would have to be a fisherman’s sou’wester hat. I can envision our fishing boat captains throughout the years steering their boats through the unrelenting rain and the sou’wester keeping them dry. Metaphorically, one can compare the protection a sou’wester provides, to how our calm, protected harbor does the same for not only our fishing fleet, but for the many recreational boats that visit or call Gig Harbor home.
JC: If Prosser were a hat, we’d be a hat with a wide brim in order to offer shade in our desert heat!
RS: A trucker hat. Very casual, with a lot of county and outdoor living implied.
Learn more about RevitalizeWA, our in-person days, and how to register: