With an open roadway and open arms, the Archbold community is dusting off its welcome mat.
"C'mon back" is the theme for the village's grand reopening celebration Oct. 8, marking the completion of a three-year effort to upgrade and improve Defiance Street, a main artery that throbs with traffic through the heart of this Fulton County town.
"We're absolutely thrilled," said Archbold Mayor Jim Wyse about the completed projects. He's enthused, too, about the upcoming welcome-back event. "We really think our efforts here are to let everyone know we have a new beginning, and that everyone can actually get through Archbold without a detour and delay."
Because Defiance Street runs through the downtown business district, plans for major improvements remained just plans for many years, like an ever-present storm on the community's horizon. But village officials a few years ago reached a point that they were tired of talking, in part because of lackluster interest in a couple of downtown buildings that were up for sale.
People were reluctant to invest in downtown businesses because of the uncertainty over the Defiance Street plans - when would it be torn up, for how long, what impact would it have on business, the mayor said. At that point, officials decided that "it needed to get done."
In the last three years portions of North and South Defiance Street have been rebuilt and widened, and new sidewalks, courtyards, decorative street lights, and underground utilities have been installed. The cost was more than $5 million.
The Oct. 8 celebration will stretch from one end of the improved area to the other, said Mari Yoder, co-executive director of the Archbold Area
Chamber of Commerce. "This will be a fun event to celebrate three hard years. It was hard on the merchants and hard on the residents, but it was well worth it. It has been a challenge to get through, and we want to make a fun event where everybody can celebrate. We want to make it a family event because that's what Archbold is all about," she said.
The festival kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with the annual Run for the Lights, a fund-raising event for the community's Festival of Lights display in Ruihley Park during the Christmas holiday season.
Just ahead of the 12:30 p.m. official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the revitalized downtown area, more than 40 antique cars, tractors, and fire trucks will parade along Defiance Street.
Beginning at 10 a.m., chili will be served by about a dozen groups and businesses vying for the "Taste of Archbold" title. Among participants will be Sauder Village which recently was annexed into Archbold.
"We are pleased with the outstanding new look of Archbold's downtown. The improvements certainly help to make Archbold even more warm and welcoming to the thousands of guests coming to this area from throughout the region," said Kim Krieger, director of marketing for Sauder Village.
Other festival activities include entertainment; food vendors; a children's area; the Archbold fire department's fire prevention open house, and a bike parade.
Treasures unearthed during work on Defiance Street, including broken bits of a buggy and an engraved spoon, will be displayed in a museum in the Andres O'Neil & Lowe Insurance Agency. Residents have dug up other pieces of the past for the display, said Mr. Wyse who has been involved in the history project. He found an 1881 contract signed by B.F. Goodrich who helped make Akron , Ohio, the "Rubber Capital of the World." The contract, found in the village's archives, was for 500 feet of fire hose.