JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -
The Mississippi Main Street Team describes Small Business Saturday as a special holiday for communities to show love to small businesses and shop local.
"During the winter months, we are producing six to eight hours a day," said Deep South Pops owner Jake Franklin.
Small businesses open and operating throughout the metro area and Franklin said the community can't operate without the locals.
"It's a vital piece to Jackson and every city really," said Franklin. "I think it brings an eclectic mix of interesting things. The people that live in these communities are interesting people with interesting products and ideas."
"You're not only supporting that business you are supporting jobs, you are supporting future growth," said Kristen Ley. "So, it's kind of a full circle thing."
Chic and elegant displays inside one of the oldest buildings in downtown Jackson showcase Ley's artwork. From her garage to her colorful store front, you can shop local at Thimblepress.
"When you spend with a local company you are giving money back to your own community. Every dollar you spend creates three dollars within your community. Most likely the small businesses you use are using local accountants, local lawyers, they are shopping locally for supplies," explained Ley. "So, I've always been a big proponent for in shopping small and shopping locally."
Small Business Saturday launched in 2010 as a way to boost spending at locally owned shops.
By William Moore
Tupelo Daily Journal
SALTILLO – Saltillo residents got their first look Thursday night at the Vision Plan tailored for the city by a panel of experts from the Mississippi Main Street Association.
The experts came from across the state and across the country to spend three days in Saltillo learning about the northern Lee County town of 5,000, its people, its resources and how to best promote it.
“I have been overwhelmed by all of this and extremely surprised,” said Saltillo Main Street Director Lindsey Hines. “They came in with a fresh set of eyes – they weren’t biased and gave us their thoughts.”
While most members of the MMSA focused their attention on downtown, Saltillo is different. While the city does have a traditional downtown business district, most of the commercial and retail businesses are on Highway 145.
To deal with the city as a whole and the two business districts, the panel created a simple logo and designated the areas Saltillo-Downtown and Saltillo-South.
“You can use this logo for banners, promotions, advertising and even way-finding signs,” said facilitator Ben Muldrow from Greenville, South Carolina.
As a way to unify the business districts and the town as a whole, Pass Christian architect Leah Watters suggested “Saltillo in Bloom.” An abundance of a single type of plant would be ordered. Then businesses and residents could plant them on their properties. When they bloomed, it would offer a sea of the same color across the community.
Mississippi State University Extension Service economist Rachel Carter said Saltillo’s median disposable income is well above the state average. But a lot of that money is being spent out of town.
“There is potential for growth, especially in general merchandise,” Carter said.
She conducted a study that showed Saltillo residents are pet owners, enjoy hunting and fishing and enjoy walking for exercise.
As part of a long-rang plan, the panel suggested walking trails and pedestrian connections to link Saltillo City Park, the W.K. Webb Sportsplex, downtown and Lake Lamar Bruce. The trail could also connect with the Natchez Trace Parkway.
The plan also called for the conversion of unused property on downtown side streets into parking lots. The panel said more than 200 additional parking spaces could easily be created to foster a revamped business district.
MMSA will give local officials a couple of months to digest the information in the vision plan. They will return after the holidays and begin putting the ideas into a format the city can implement over the next several years.
I was heading to Batesville to board the Polar Express for the North Pole. The magic began as soon as I entered the city. Warm, brightly lit snowflakes lined the streets, welcoming me to town. I made the turn toward downtown, and the excitement continued to build.
I knew I had arrived as buildings and trees with thousands of twinkling lights greeted me. The downtown looked scrubbed and polished with fresh pine straw, groomed shrubs, squeaky-clean windows and beautiful winter window displays. For folks coming to Batesville from hundreds of miles around, I knew some fun family shopping would be had in the coming weeks before Christmas.
The train was set to depart at 7:30 p.m., and I did not have much time to spare. I found the ticket office, a wonderful corner building on the Square with Polar Express pajamas, robes, and wonderful trinkets for purchase in the windows. I grabbed my prized ticket and hurried to board the train in the middle of the Square. The conductor was yelling, “All Aboard!” and a friendly greeter took my ticket and guided me to Car B. I stepped on board and immediately saw dozens of friendly faces, eager for the ride to begin. Pajamas, reindeer ears, elf hats and fuzzy slippers were donned for the evening ride.
More lights and presents were on display above the seats, and I happily plunked down in the warm blue seat that was reserved for me. Our car had our own friendly chefs who clapped and sang and danced up and down the aisle to beloved Christmas songs. They began to pass out soft sugar cookies and warm hot chocolate to all the passengers.
After the delicious snack, it was story time! Through the speakers above, The Polar Express was read aloud. The friendly chefs held the books in their hands and showed us the storybook pages as we listened. The friendly vagabond in the story appeared in our car, and the conductor merrily chased him through the car. Thank goodness we all had tickets!
As we listened and enjoyed the ride, we could see the bright lights on houses and trees that we passed by. Such charming scenery along the way to the North Pole! When the story was over, more Christmas songs were sung, and then the train slowed. Suddenly a huge building framed in bright lights loomed in our vision, and we had arrived! Santa and his elves were waiting for us outside of Santa’s workshop and waving at us. Everyone crammed their faces into the side windows to get a glimpse of Santa and his helpers.
Though the time had come to leave the North Pole, we were entertained by Santa’s elves who came on board, dancing and clapping and singing in the train car. Beautiful, silver bells tied with red ribbon were given to each passenger with “The Polar Express” inscribed. What a treasure to remember the trip by!
Suddenly, Santa appeared in our car! He shook hands and hugged every person in the car, smiling and taking pictures. After Santa saw everyone, more songs were sung, and suddenly, as soon as it had begun, we were back in downtown Batesville.
Departing the train and seeing the hundreds of smiling people getting off, I knew the ride had been as magical for them as it was for me. The Christmas season had officially begun with the Polar Express Train Ride.
By Jeannie Zieren
The City of Batesville, Miss. is anticipating a boost in economic activity this year when THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train arrives for the 2016 holiday season.
Batesville first began service to the North Pole onboard THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train in November of 2015. Due to its success, THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train will return and offer rides from November 18 through December 23 this year.
The magical story comes to life when the train departs downtown Batesville for a one-hour round-trip journey to the North Pole during the months of November and December.
Set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, passengers relive the magic of the story as they are whisked away on THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride. Once onboard, cheerful, dancing elves serve passengers hot chocolate and cookies while they read along with the classic children’s book, The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg.
Santa and his helpers greet passengers at the North Pole and then board the train, where each child is given the first gift of Christmas – a silver sleigh bell. Chefs aboard each car lead passengers in singing Christmas carols on the ride back to Batesville.
“It is the only Warner Brothers Polar Express licensed event in Mississippi,” said Colleen Clark, Batesville Main Street director. “More than 50,000 tickets were sold during the event duration last year. Batesville was the highest grossing location in ticket sales for THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train. We hope the sales are even stronger this year!”
Clark said Batesville being selected to host the train ride was “serendipity.” She said Premier Rail Events, which manages the ticket sales, noticed the charming downtown square and saw the potential for bringing the train ride to Batesville.
“This is exciting for Batesville but especially for downtown,” Clark said. “Securing the train has been a catalyst for business owners to make downtown visitor-ready.”
Once THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride was confirmed that it was coming, Batesville Main Street members wanted to capitalize on the opportunity.
Main Street volunteers and business owners worked hard to complete eight new façade rehabilitations of downtown buildings in time for the train’s arrival last year. Batesville Main Street also worked with downtown merchants to expand store hours, decorate for the holidays, and create new incentives for holiday shopping.
“Our stores saw an increase in out of town and in store shoppers,” Clark said. “We also had three new businesses locate to downtown.”
The pocket park at the entryway of the Square in downtown was also decorated for the season.
Besides the “makeover” that downtown received, THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride also gave the City of Batesville a significant economic and tourism boost.
November 2015 showed a 13 percent increase in food, beverage and lodging tax as well as retail sales tax from November 2014, and December 2015 showed an overall 11 percent increase from the previous year.
While the numbers are impressive, THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride also provides the intangible benefits of bringing families together and enhancing the quality of life for residents and visitors alike from all over the state and region.
The City and businesses of Batesville are excited to welcome the second THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride and all its visitors to town this holiday season.
Tickets for THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride are on sale now!
Book Tickets by Phone: 877-334-4783 or Website: https://www.grenadapolarexpressride.com/.
By Sarah Mahan
The Vicksburg Post
Event planners from around the state will be flocking to Vicksburg at the end of January.
A collaboration between the Mississippi Main Street Association, Visit Mississippi, the Mississippi Arts Commission and local sponsors, Back Stage Pass 2017, an annual conference to “prepare event coordinators to plan and implement memorable events in Mississippi’s hometowns,” will be held in the Red Carpet City Jan. 26 and Jan. 27, according to a press release.
This year’s theme, “A Nod to the Past and a Vision for the Future,” hints the special importance of this year’s event, as 2017 is Mississippi’s 200th anniversary as a state.
“With it being the bicentennial and Vicksburg being so historic, it’s the perfect place for 2017, though we didn’t necessarily plan it that way,” Jeannie Waller Zieren, director of training and information for the Mississippi Main Street Association, said, noting in surveys for previous events Vicksburg was listed as a place attendees would like a future conference to be held.
Though Zieren said the majority of the approximately 200 attendees expected at the event, which will mostly be held at the Vicksburg Convention Center, will be associated with city government and professional event planning, the conference is open to anyone interested in planning an event in Mississippi.
“Different cities around the state see different numbers, but we’ll see 150 and hopefully close to 200 people attend,” she said of the event, now in its sixth year. “We work really hard to create a totally new conference each year. It’s one of those things that you can go to every year and learn something new.”
Though the conference will have staple sessions, like its intro to festivals and events session, Zieren said parts of the conference will focus on bicentennial event planning as well.
Mary Margaret Miller, Visit Mississippi’s creative economy and culture bureau manager, said, “We hope that our sessions will inspire attendees to recognize the state’s deep, complex and sometimes volatile history. Moreover, we intend for attendees to come away with a vision of what our communities will look like in the next 200 years. We are optimistic about the future of our state, and we know that creative placemaking, entrepreneurship and events are at the root of its success.”
Zieren added event sessions will feature mostly speakers from Mississippi.
“We’re heavily Mississippi influenced,” she said. “We rely heavily on Mississippi experts.”
In addition to conference sessions, Back Stage Pass 2017 will feature a Mississippi Artists Showcase and an opportunity for businesses or artists to exhibit wares or services that could be booked for an event.
Attendees who visit all exhibitors will be entered to win a free concert by a Mississippi roster artist.
The event, Zieren said, aims to boost local economies and Mississippi’s creative economy.
“We talk to you about how to include your merchants at your event. We look at how an event can attract money that stays in the local economy,” she said.
Registration for the event opened last week with a pass for the event costing $100. For more information on how to register call 601-944-0113.