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Published: Tuesday, 5/4/2010

Perrysburg group energizes downtown

Carolyn Walton, executive director of Downtown Perrysburg Inc., says the goal is to keep Louisiana Avenue attractive and active. Carolyn Walton, executive director of Downtown Perrysburg Inc., says the goal is to keep Louisiana Avenue attractive and active.

After John Spink was named Perrysburg's first mayor in 1833, he issued the community's first law: "No person is allowed to exhibit for pay any animals, wax figures, puppets, wire dancing, tumbling or sleight of hand in the public streets without first obtaining a permit."

There isn't much wire dancing these days, but downtown Perrysburg is bustling and the city's calendar is packed with plans for musical entertainment and horse-drawn carriage rides, plus some seed planting and ice-cream making in the coming weeks.

As some communities struggle to keep their downtowns from becoming ghost towns, Perrysburg's perks right along, propelled in part by an energetic and determined group.

"We see other cities, and they are struggling, but we're flourishing right now," said Carolyn Walton, executive director of Downtown Perrysburg Inc. since January.

Noting that the city's downtown lacks a Main Street - the main drag is Louisiana Avenue - the group recently changed its name from Perrysburg Main Street Inc. to Downtown Perrysburg Inc.

The name is different but the nonprofit's mission is the same: to promote historic downtown Perrysburg.

A main goal will to be "to just keep downtown nice and vital. If we can keep downtown busy and full of people, if we can bring different events, if the downtown looks great, it is a reflection on how the city is doing," Mrs. Walton said.

A key reason for the success: Perrysburg is a tight-knit community, she said.

"We work at this. We have organizations dedicated to this. We have a great city administration. The mayor listens, and we have a lot of in-kind support from the city. It's kind of a mix of all of that."

And too, she said, merchants work together.

Other organizations are involved as well, such as the local garden club and the arts council.

Within the downtown district, the nonprofit group has about 35 active members, including Kathleen A. Jones, owner of Jones & Co. a custom-embroidery shop at 118 Louisiana.

She said the city's historical significance is a key ingredient in the downtown's recipe for success.

"I think a lot of store owners know history of their buildings," she said.

Hers was one of the first structures built along Louisiana, and it was Mr. Spink, the community's first mayor, who was the original owner, she said.

The building later served as a library. "It is so interesting when you know the history of your downtown," Mrs. Jones said.

Perrysburg's downtown is a vibrant place to do business, she said, and business owners are friendly, helpful, and service oriented.

Soon, Perrysburg's downtown will sizzle with spring-time activities, such as First Fridays held from 5:30 to 9 p.m. beginning this week.

This is the fourth year for First Friday, which often draws 1,500 to 2,000 visitors to the downtown, Mrs. Walton said, and attendance increases toward the end of summer.

Downtown Perrysburg Inc. would like to add other activities during the week, such as musicians who would perform on summer evenings along Louisiana Avenue where more restaurants now have outdoor dining areas, Mrs. Walton said.

First Fridays include live musical entertainment, street performers, horse-carriage rides, vendors, and new this year, art and science activities presented by the Perrysburg Area Arts Council and Imagination Station.

Jennifer Solon, assistant director of the arts council, said children can participate in programs such as Spring Sprouts, involving seed planting and a growth chart, and frozen liquid nitrogen ice-cream making.

Other First Friday dates are June 4, July 2, Aug. 6, Sept. 3, and Oct. 1.

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