Three women kept busy decorating empty storefronts

A growing subject in the talk around Vandalia has been the attractive, seasonal decorations in the empty storefronts along Gallatin Street the past few months. The next comment is often, Who is doing the decorating?

Empty buildings in a downtown district with vacant storefront windows can lend a rather desolate and dismal appearance to the whole street, no matter how attractive the surrounding storefronts appear.

Three community-spirited ladies recognized these detractions to downtown Vandalia and decided to do something about it.

Catherine Bowen, Berniece Etcheson and Joyce Flowers (aided by the Rev. Ernie Butch Flowers) are giving of their time, resources and creativity to help make downtown Vandalia more inviting to citizens and out-of-town visitors.

The ladies (and their helper) are busily preparing the windows for Vandalia Main Streets Olde Tyme Christmas. Sponsored by First National Bank, the holiday season kickoff event is from 5-8 p.m. this Friday.

We thought the empty store windows didnt look good for our town, Flowers said.

So Berniece, Joyce and I started doing this last spring, Bowen said. We had four storefronts to start with, but one is occupied now. We change it seasonally.

We also have one up by Vandalia Mutual that is a historical presentation, and we add a little seasonal decoration in it.

The ladies also qualify as Santas helpers, as they decorate Santas House and his Christmas tree. Bowen stated that Berniece has the creative, artistic mind and that she and Joyce follow her directions.

Butch is our maintenance person, Bowen said. He is very good to haul things for us, build props, repair things and clean windows. It doesnt pay much, except we feel the satisfaction in doing something to help our downtown.

The ladies said they get their decorations from home, yard sales and friends. And sometimes, the local merchants contribute. For instance, RP Lumber donated these big boards to use for a backdrop, Bowen said.

Bowen is the chairwoman of Main Streets economic restructuring committee, which tries to get businesses to come to the downtown.

I felt we needed to do something about the empty storefronts. Berniece and Joyce came up with great ideas and help, and weve come up with some real good storefronts, Bowen said. I think the neighboring merchants really appreciate it, too, and they decorate their windows, also.

Bowen said that anyone who would like to be a volunteer of Main Street is welcome.

We have a lot of chores, she said. You dont have to decorate, but you can.

There are other things to do. You can be a one-time volunteer or do more. Jo Lineberry is the chairperson of promotions, and she needs committee people and people to help with putting up, taking down signs and decorations.

The design committee tries to maintain the historic integrity of the storefronts and otherwise help to improve the appearance of downtown buildings.

Local artists have created murals and their work is on view at Gabys Gift gallery at Fifth and Gallatin streets and at Wiseguyss Food and Spirits at Gallatin and Fourth streets.

Olde Tyme Christmas

has become a favorite holiday tradition in Vandalia, with free horse-drawn sleigh rides, a strolling with the lamp lighter, strolling carolers, the town crier, a live nativity scene, chainsaw ice sculptures, a childrens story time and photos with Santa.

And for kids of all ages, the lighting of the community Christmas tree at the top of the Gallatin Street hill, just west of Seventh Street.

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