It could have been a scene straight from the 1950s, as people walked along Hazard’s Main Street, stopping periodically to gaze through a store front window. But it wasn’t from downtown’s bygone days, it was this past Saturday, and it was a good thing to see.
For years people in Hazard have been trying to solve the puzzle of downtown revitalization, or simply getting people back to Main Street during the weekends and hours when perhaps the courthouse isn’t open. It hasn’t been an easy problem to solve, and while certainly we’re not there yet we think it’s safe to say the first piece of the puzzle has been placed upon the table.
Saturday’s parade, which always draws hundreds to Main Street, was coupled with a showcase for local artists in which their works — be it painting, sculpture, or photography – were displayed in store fronts along the parade route. Normally the crowd quickly disperses for carriage rides and photos with Santa following the parade, and of course that happened again this year, but we were also encouraged to see many folks continuing to mill about on Main Street, taking in the artwork on display. And that was no small feat, especially considering the impromptu nature of the showcase and the chilly temperatures and even colder wind blowing down Main Street.
We realize this showcase was an event paired with an already established draw to downtown, but we also think it shows the city’s potential when downtown business and property owners can come together as they did for this event. More than 20 owners allowed artwork to be displayed on their property, and as of press time on Tuesday several had left the pieces in place.
There is still a lot of work left to be done, there is no doubt. But we see a potential in Hazard’s downtown beyond the already existing draws like parades, annual festivals, and monthly poetry readings. We see a community made up of individuals and organizations like InVision Hazard willing to pitch in to turn around our local economy and develop our city and county into something else with more opportunity for future generations.
That might be a rosy and overly optimistic interpretation in the face of drastic job loss and increasingly fewer options locally. But optimism is just what we’re going to need moving forward. That and a bit of creativity. And if Saturday is any indicator at all, we’ve got creativity in spades.
— The Hazard Herald