Eupora has seen a revitalization of its downtown area sparked by the beautiful renovation of the Depot by native daughter Belinda Stewart and her award winning architectural firm. Belinda Stewart Architects has been integral in the renovation and historic preservation of 10 additional buildings in the downtown area as well as façade renovations and has prepared façade renderings for other businesses.
One of these renovations was undertaken specifically as an arts center. In 2001, Belinda and local attorney Jacqueline Meek formed Eupora Arts, Inc. and set out to have a place on Dunn Street that would be home to theatre and music performances, art exhibits, and children’s workshops in all the arts. The BLY Fine Arts Center has established an art presence downtown that is unusual for a town the size of Eupora but has proved to be one of the best decisions that has helped inspire another.
At a time when the downtown seemed to be dying and there were too many empty buildings, the town decided to use the empty buildings on Dunn Street to have a Christmas Market on the first Saturday in December. The bustle on Dunn Street was something Eupora hadn’t seen in decades. That was seven years ago. Today, the Christmas Market is going strong with a week full of events leading up to that Saturday – and the empty buildings have almost disappeared!
Since the design charrette in May 2009, Eupora has seen five façade upgrades and three full renovations to buildings as well as five ribbon cuttings for new businesses and another renovation of a new business is in process. Eupora, as well as all of Webster County, has also started “Spend $20 on the 20th” to remind all of our residents, even those that may work in another town, to spend locally. This is just the first step in a buy local campaign that will be carried out through the holidays and into the New Year. Eupora truly is making progress. In steps.
EUPORA’S UPCOMING EVENTS
November 6, 7 – Retail Christmas Open House Weekend, Sippin’ Cider competition
November 30 – Festival of Lights – the lighting of the Depot Park
December 1 – Eupora Christmas Parade – A Wild West Christmas
December 2 – Advent Walk – community churches participating
December 4 – 3 p.m. – We hope to watch Eupora Eagles win State Championship
December 5 – Christmas Market 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Miss Merry Christmas Parade of Beauties – 6 p.m.
Newton, Mississippi is “Our Great Small Town.” This year Mississippi Main Street Association along with the WAEM regional economical development initiative presented a design charette in a town hall type setting that literally set the community on fire – again. The first time was when Mississippi State came with the First Impressions team and gave ideas and opinions based on a first impression visit of Newton. This was a turning point for Newton that started the revitalization of its core downtown.
A new town logo and a new front door design gave the town a new “first impression.” The downtown area still has most of its pre-Civil War buildings and rail lines. As few as six years ago, the majority of Newton’s downtown buildings were vacant and boarded up. Thanks to local art teacher Dottie Armstrong and her students and many volunteers, the boarded up storefronts were decorated with paintings and artwork in many of the windows. Today, those buildings are filled with businesses and back on the tax rolls. This is a very important step in the right direction for any small town.
Newton is fortunate enough to have its Depot restored and listed on the National Historical Register and functions as the local Chamber of Commerce office. The back section of the Depot (or “The Warehouse” as locals call it) serves as the gathering place. Many events are held in the Warehouse year round. The Depot has been featured in Mississippi magazine on several occasions. Located directly behind the Depot is Knabusch Park and the Gazebo. This green space links many of Newton’s key destinations such as the Depot, City hall, the Post Office, Historic Plaza, and of course the core commercial district along Main and Church Streets. The Gazebo and park host several events during the year such as talent shows, dog shows, 4-H events and “Music in the Park.” These activities bring visitors and locals into the downtown area.
Newton is full of rich Civil War history. There are three historical markers: the old Confederate Hospital site, the Depot and Doolittle Cemetery. Grierson’s Raid happened here at Newton Station (the Depot) on April 24, 1863. Federal troops under General Benjamin H. Grierson struck the Vicksburg-Meridian rail route, tore up the tracks and burned the Depot. Doolittle Cemetery has more than 100 unknown soldiers buried there. The local chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans has put in many hours of research to find the identity of some of the soldiers and replace the Unknown Stones with Named Soldiers that lost their lives here in Newton.
At present time, Newton is also home to the Mississippi State Veterans Memorial Cemetery where our nation’s heroes will be laid to rest. Construction on this multi-million dollar project began with the presentation of a check for 7 million dollars in early September. The ground-breaking ceremony is scheduled for November 5th and expected opening will be the fall of 2010. This has already been deemed “The Arlington of the South” by many Washington officials.
In 2008, the city sold an empty downtown facility to a local private developer, and they have since done many amazing things with “Historia Plaza.” The name itself lends to all the history not only at the site but within Newton. The Plaza currently houses a much-needed Pre-School/Day Care in the emergency room area which worked out great because of the covered drive and access to the playground. Also located inside Historia Plaza are retail shops in one hall, a coffee shop, photography Studio, East Central Community College-Career Development Center and the Education and Training Institute.
Tourism is a great industry in Newton with an organized tour offered for a minimum of 15 people per group. The tour starts at La-Z-Boy then goes to Hidden Springs Arabian Farm, an internationally known Arabian horse farm nestled on rolling hills within the city limits of Newton. Tourists can walk through the stables and see the horses in the big show arena. Horses bred and trained here continue to win acclaim in horse shows everywhere. The farm was made famous by the late actor Patrick Swayze who kept several of his horses there and visited quite regularly. Then the tour continues back to the Depot where lunch is served up with southern hospitality and civil war history. The movie “Horse Soldiers” with John Wayne was based on the burning of Newton Station. After lunch, the tour continues to Secret Garden Art Studio for a visit with Dottie Armstrong who was the driving force behind the murals in Newton. Included in the tour are the secret garden and the 100+ year-old house filled with color and artwork. From there, guests go to Doolittle Cemetery, Real Southern Images, the Roxy Theatre, Newton Presbyterian Church, Esco, Nance Hill or Lazy-Acres Plantation.
Events and Promotions
Newton’s biggest event of the year happens the first weekend in March. The Loose-Caboose Festival draws crowds of nearly 15,000 for a weekend filled with arts and crafts, BBQ contest, dog show, motorcycle show, car show, entertainment, talent show, antique tractor show, Kids Zone, Carnival Rides, food and much more.
The local high school also sponsors a battle of the bands in April along with Arts and Antiques. Newton is also host to a Cinco De Mayo Festival sponsored by Climb Aboard Newton and the local Mexican Restaurant. June rolls around and brings Fun Day at Historia Plaza then a Back to School Bash and Teacher Welcome Breakfast in August. The annual Jimbeau Hinson Festival (Jimbeau is a Nashville songwriter with many hit songs to his credi who was born and raised in Newton) with Art and Antiques and Let’s Go Walking Down Main Street, an annual one-mile walk along the streets of downtown – all occur in October. The Newton Theatre Company’s Roxy Theatre has major productions per year. In April – a children’s production of “Charlotte’s Web” with more than 50 children in the play and some 3,000 school children attending the performance from local schools in the surrounding area. In July – a dinner theatre production, “A Mad Breakfast,” and in September – the annual Gala event – a production of “Susical the Musical” by Dr. Seuss. In December, the Roxy plays host to jolly old St. Nick himself with “Christmas at the Roxy.”
Recent and Current Projects
Since the Design Charrette several local developers are making dreams come true in the downtown area. A café building located downtown on Main Street that has been vacant for more than 15 years is finally being brought back to life as a functioning restaurant with hopes of being open in time for the holidays. An Art Gallery and Antique Mall are also located on Main Street. Another local developer has purchased several buildings and the renovation of some of these buildings has been a long-waited dream of downtown housing. The first town house in downtown Newton is finished and renovation on another building is under way. There are many exciting developments going on downtown that will bring visitors and locals opportunities that have not been available in the past. Downtown Newton is the true definition of revitalization!
If you have questions about local retailers, events, restaurants or upcoming events, please visit the website at http://www.newtonmschamber.com or call at 601-683-2201.