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Main Street Alabama Makes History After Hosting the Main Street Now 2024 Conference

The Main Street Now 2024 conference, hosted by Main Street Alabama, drew an impressive 2,000 attendees, positioning Birmingham as the largest attended Main Street event to date and surpassing previous records. The conference's economic impact is estimated to have exceeded $4.1 million.

The Welcome Reception kicked off the conference at City Walk with an electrifying performance by the drum line from Miles College, supported by Main Street Alabama's generous donation of $5,000 towards new cymbals. With the crowd already on their feet, they were ready for the Boys in the Band, a tribute band, that played Alabama's hit songs. The City of Fort Payne and Fort Payne Main Street sponsored the Boys in the Band. Main Street America had plenty of food truck options ready to keep the crowd hydrated and nourished!

The Opening Plenary on Monday, May 6, featured many special guests including Birmingham’s inaugural poet laureate, Salaam Green, who delivered a poignant verse explicitly crafted for the Main Street Now conference during the opening plenary at the historic Alabama Theatre. Jim Byard, Jr., Board Chair for Main Street Alabama had the opportunity to speak and introduce Main Street Now's presenting sponsor, the Alabama Department of Tourism's Director, Lee Sentell. Governor Kay Ivey, also made an appearance to congratulate Alabama's first GAMSA (Great American Main Street Award) winner, Monroeville Main Street, a shining example of revitalization.

Monday night was the LAMA (Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi & Arkansas] event hosted by United Bank Community DevelopmentPeople’s BankJones Walker and bakertilly. This event was held at Dread River Distilling Co; there were Lamas everywhere: six feet tall, neon, and photo ops. The food was impeccable, and the fellowship with partnering state programs was enjoyed by all.


Image: Miles College Drum Line Courtesy: Main Street America

Image: LAMA Reception Courtesy: Main Street Alabama

Monroeville Main Street Earns 2024 Great American Main Street Award for Excellence in Downtown Revitalization

A Success Story of Collaborative Problem Solving and Creative Solutions

Main Street America announced during the conference that Monroeville Main Street received the prestigious Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA), which recognizes communities for their excellence in comprehensive preservation-based commercial district revitalization. The 2024 GAMSA honors, sponsored by The Hartford, were presented at the opening plenary for the Main Street Now Conference in Birmingham, Alabama.


Selected by a national jury of industry professionals and local leaders in the fields of economic development and historic preservation, Monroeville Main Street is being recognized for facilitating an incredible renaissance rooted in economic vitality, thoughtful design, and the literary arts.


“I am so incredibly inspired by Monroeville Main Street’s extraordinary success, especially in a relatively short amount of time,” said Erin Barnes, President and CEO at Main Street America. “They are truly writing the next chapter for Monroeville through a passionate dedication to collective action and preservation with a purpose.”


Image: Monroeville Main Street Delegation Courtesy: Main Street America

Volunteers from Across the State Showed Up and Showed Out in Birmingham

“This was the first visit to Alabama for many who attended this conference so, from day one of planning, showing the best southern hospitality was very intentional," said Tanya Maloney, Main Street Alabama Field Services Specialist, and volunteer organizer for the conference. "One of the best ways we knew how to send people home with the best impression of our Sweet Home was through our Main Street volunteers.”

Volunteers turned on the southern charm while getting people to their sessions, handing out items at the Blue Cross Blue Shield Wellness Station, directing visitors to restaurants and attractions, checking people in and out of events, troubleshooting AV issues, obtaining and replacing water jugs, hosting busloads of people, and even giving tips for attendees extending their stay.

Volunteers also took advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime event being held in Birmingham. When asked what motivated her to volunteer for the conference, Ansley Emfinger from LaFayette said, “I wanted to take advantage of the many sessions by being a room monitor. I served on the LaFayette Main Street board and sat in on a session about Board management and development. It was fantastic, and I learned a lot.”

The mother of Main Street, Mary Means, said during remarks at the closing plenary, "if it weren't for all of those people in pink shirts, I would still be lost.” We're glad we could help.

Be sure to check out what this volunteer, Birmingham resident, and retired Public Relations Manager at Alabama Power, had to say about his experience and the reactions from attendees visiting Birmingham for the first time.


Directors Share Expertise

Three Main Street Alabama program directors presented during the conference. Courtney Bennett, Montevallo Main Street, co-presented with Elvie Schooley, Drum the Program, pictured, on building a bridge to diverse cultures, Anne Marie Bryan, Monroeville Main Street spoke about their smART Moves Mural Trail and its economic impact, Mariah

Montgomery, Main Street Enterprise, spoke about their youth Main Street committee program and was a panelist for the "Putting the Real in Real Estate" session.

Our designated communities are doing amazing work and we are thrilled that these directors were able to share their expertise to a national audience.

Image: Courtney Bennett, Elvie Schooley Courtesy: Courtney Bennett

Wellness Station - A New Addition to Main Street Now

Thanks to our sponsor Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama and our item sponsor Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, Main Street Alabama was able to turn up the southern hospitality with the first-ever Wellness Station. Alabamians know that the weather is unpredictable in May, and Main Streeters know that Main Street Now is packed with all-day sessions and evening activities. To provide a respite from early mornings, long sessions, and late

nights, and changing weather, the Wellness Station was

stocked with bug spray, hydration packets, sunscreen, first aid kits, rain ponchos, and more. In addition to the Station, attendees were also treated to ten-minute free chair massages from Life Touch Massage and stretch sessions from the Alabama Ballet

Image: Wellness Station Courtesy: Paul Carruthers

Pre-Conference Fun

The fun starts days before the conference for Main Street Coordinating programs. Beginning on the Friday before, new coordinating program staff members attend a 4-hour New Coordinator training. This year, Mary Helmer Wirth, Main Street Alabama State Coordinator, assisted in facilitating that session alongside Kathy LaPlante, Main Street America's Senior Director of Coordinating Programs.

That evening, the new Coordinators' reception was graciously hosted by Tasty Town, a local Greek restaurant favorite in the Parkside district. Tasty Town donated space and appetizers for approximately 40 coordinators and staff from across the country.

Coordinators gathered on Saturday morning at McWane Science Center to a wonderful southern style breakfast, got reacquainted with each other and learned about generational norms and why we do the things we do. We took a tour of the Civil Rights District and then gathered for the Maino de Mayo Coordinators Reception sponsored by Arnett Muldrow and Place & Main. Sunday we learned about Community Reinvestment Act opportunities, heard from Virginia Main Street and updates from Main Street America before heading the conference Welcome Reception that evening at City Walk.

State architects and economic vitality specialists also had concurrent tours and sessions. On Saturday this group was greeted by Christina Argo, City of Birmingham's Strategic Projects and Innovation Division Manager, and Toni Dennis, City Walk Birmingham, Director of Public Relations and Community Partnerships, to walk and learn more about the development and success of City Walk.

Image: City Walk Courtesy: Main Street Alabama


Thank you!

Months and months of talking, planning, plotting, stressing, laughing and camaraderie for Main Street Alabama staff, local directors, board members, volunteers and so many more came to a close May 8th. I am so proud of the outcome of all that planning and work - it was amazing. Thank you to all the donors, we could not have done it without your generosity!

Main Street America - thank you for your faith and trust in us, we enjoyed working with so many wonderful staff members and making new friends along the way!

Birmingham stole my heart 11 years ago and I was thrilled to share my love for this wonderful city and beautiful state with 2000 attendees! We are looking forward to Philadelphia in 2025.

Image: Mary Helmer Wirth Courtesy: Tosha Gaines Photography

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