A summer of Tuesday afternoons
Tuesday night marked the end of an experiment in Austin, at least for this year.
Tuesdays on Main, a weekly event on Main Street in Downtown Austin, was held for the last time until June.
The first year brought success and lessons for the future.
"The first week was extremely, extremely busy," said Naomi Thompson, co-owner of Healing Palms Spa and treasurer for the Austin Downtown Alliance, which puts on Tuesdays on Main. "The restaurants have been full every week. Quite a few people have jumped aboard."
Tuesdays on Main has featured local businesses setting up tables on the sidewalks along with vendors from Austin and surrounding communities. There has been entertainment and themes, such as a classic car night and trick-or-treating in July.
The idea for Tuesdays on Main came from Rochester’s highly successful Thursdays on First and Third.
"They’ve been mentoring us," Thompson said. "They were our inspiration."
An organizer from Rochester’s event came to Austin to give the Downtown Alliance pointers and imparted some philosophy about how to keep the community vibrant.
"Your downtown needs to be first," Thompson said she was told. "The rest of the town will follow automatically."
Growing downtown has been the overall goal of Tuesdays on Main, and by many accounts it seems to be working one step at a time. Thompson said organizers will keep looking for something new and different that people don’t see every day. In her shop, Thompson has had samples of jams and teas, for example.
"It’s going well for us," said Ellen Stark, a volunteer at the Philomathian Religious Books store. "We’ve been happy."
Stark and fellow volunteer Judy Gerlach manned Philomathian’s table Tuesday night, as they do many nights of the week. The two agreed there have been weeks Tuesdays on Main has been more successful than others, but they have seen improvement downtown and expect it can continue. They also have some ideas of their own.
"If we could get more food vendors and vendors on the street," suggested Gerlach, acknowledging this was only the first year for the event. "You have to develop it."
Developing Tuesdays on Main is definitely a priority. Thompson said now that the Downtown Alliance has established the event, it can focus on how to grow it.
Food vendors are among the ideas, as are more live music and entertainment, with help coming in from outside sources.
"People are coming in to us with names, numbers and ideas," Thompson said. "We’ve gained more support as we’ve gone along."
Next up for the Downtown Alliance is a Halloween/Oktoberfest event Oct. 31, featuring costumed llamas, trick-or-treating, a hog roast by Ole Barn BBQ and activities for families and kids. After that, Thompson said, they will get a jump on planning Tuesdays on Main for next summer, starting June 4.
"We’re just going to grow," Thompson said.