By: Melanie Williamson
Main Street Vermilion Executive Director Marilou Suszko presented the Main Street Vermilion 2016 Annual Report to city council at the Monday, April 3, meeting. Main Street Vermilion, an Ohio Main Street Program, strives to preserve and promote our historic downtown commercial and residential district and improve the quality of life in the Vermilion community.
Suszko reminisced that ten years ago the streets of downtown were lined with concrete. Today, thanks to the efforts of Main Street Vermilion and their many volunteers and donors, the streets are lined with flowers, trees, and greenery. This change in aesthetic has earned a lot of attention.
According to the annual report provided by Suszko, Main Street Vermilion has four programs; Vermilion Arts Guild, Vermilion in Bloom, Bridge to Bridge, and the Lighthouse Preservation Committee. The Vermilion Arts Guild was created in 2006 to provide local artists with opportunities to display and sell their creations and provide enrichment in the community. In 2016, the Guild included 41 local artists, hosted four art shows, organized a community art show at Ritter Library, held five artist workshops, sponsored a Vermilion High School art show, and participated in other community events including Third Thursday, Fish Festival, Farmers Market, and Woollybear Festival.
Vermilion in Bloom organizes and funds beautification projects throughout the city. In 2016, Vermilion in Bloom donated 2,738 volunteer hours, purchased flowers for 156 hanging baskets and over 40 containers, bridge boxes and gardens, donated two trees to Vermilion Elementary School and two trees for the city tree lawn on Liberty Avenues, funded the painting of ten historic light posts and necessary electrical repairs, planned and funded seasonal decorations, and organized flower planting activities, flower and tree watering teams, adopt-a-garden program, Pride Day projects, hanging basket and flower removal days, and community service projects.
The Lighthouse Preservation Committee was founded in 2014 and had a monumental year in 2016, which included the purchase and installation of a fifth order replica Barbier and Fenestre Fresnel lens for the Vermilion Lighthouse, the painting of the lighthouse exterior, and publishing and distribution of the book, Lighthouse Mysteries by local author Joette McDonald, which was provided to all third-grade students at Vermilion Elementary School and St. Mary Catholic School.
Bridge to Bridge, the newest program was just initiated in 2016 in an effort to improve the aesthetic appeal of Liberty Avenue when coming in town from the East. So far, the program has accomplished creating a plan and vision, and that plan was presented to the community through a public meeting.
The Main Street Program consists of five main committees; operations, design, business enhancement, marketing, and special events. The operations committee focuses on maintaining and growing support for the organization, as well as mobilizing volunteers based on needs. The design committee includes Vermilion in Bloom, the Vermilion Lighthouse Preservation Committee, and Main Line Rail, which is the committee that maintains the rail observation platform and decorates it for the holidays.
The business enhancement committee includes the Bridge to Bridge program and organizes events such as Light up Vermilion for Shopping, Christmas in July, and Small Business Saturday. The marketing committee coordinates advertising, recruits businesses to host movies in the park, and coordinates businesses to promote collectively during events. In 2016, the marketing committee actively worked to increase Main Street’s social media presence and is working on a new website, which is scheduled to launch in spring of 2017.
As the name suggests, the special events committee plans community and fund-raising events. In 2016, Main Street Vermilion put on 12 such events including Ice-A-Fair, the Vermilion Harbour Triathlon/Duathlon, Farmers Market, and Painting in the Street. The 8th Annual Ice-A-Fair included 60 sculptures and seven demonstrations. The 9th Annual Vermilion Harbour Triathlon/Duathlon had 401 participants and 106 participants in the kids’ race. The Farmers Market held in Victory Park on Saturdays throughout the summer gets approximately 35 vendors each week. In 2016, they debuted Painting in the Street as the newest Main Street Vermilion event. Its first year attracted 28 business and individual participants.
The majority of the funding for Main Street Vermilion comes from events, which accounts for 39% of its total income, followed by donations, which accounts for 26%, and membership, which accounts for 25% of the total income. The remaining income comes from committees and grants. In 2016, Main Street had 325 members; 262 individuals and 63 businesses. As an organization, Main Street members logged 8,240 volunteer hours. During her presentation to city council, Suszko shared that she attends Main Street managers meetings throughout the year and of the 40 Main Street organizations in Ohio, she asserted that Vermilion is far above the rest in volunteer power.
Suszko also shared that this summer Main Street will have two interns, who will be working to create a downtown business inventory. Their goal is to gathering information to create a better understanding of the challenges facing the businesses and then use that information to make a difference. Additionally, Main Street is collaborating with others to provide bike racks and repair stations that will be located around town.