Main Street directors converge in Fort Dodge for fall conference
Kris Patrick, director of Main Street Fort Dodge, listens in during a Main Street Iowa fall conference workshop at First United Methodist Church on Tuesday.
A visitor to Fort Dodge might start their day with breakfast at Bloomers On Central, go shopping downtown and later visit the Community Orchard.
That’s just one of many potential itineraries dreamed up by Kris Patrick, director of Main Street Fort Dodge. She and 54 other Main Street directors from around the state gathered at First United Methodist Church, 127 N. 10th St., on Tuesday for Main Street Iowa’s fall workshop. “We are here to learn how to create itineraries for the downtown to make it a destination for tourists and for ourselves to rediscover what we have in our community — and not just downtown,” Patrick said.
Fort Dodge was scheduled to be the host for the conference in 2020, but was canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions. “It’s really the first big thing (gathering) they have done since COVID,” Patrick said. “This is the first in-person meeting in over a year.” Fifty-four Main Street directors from around the state are in Fort Dodge this week for the Main Street Iowa fall conference. For one exercise, Main Street directors were given a deck of cards from Ben Muldrow, of Arnett Muldrow. Muldrow, a graphic artist, led the exercise. The backside of the card looked like a playing card. The directors were asked to do something different with the front of the card. “You have to pick something — one of your favorite places in the community, maybe a restaurant or the Darriette, places you want to eat or your favorite retail or places you want to go outdoors,” Patrick said. Those places are called assets. The assets were written on the cards. “My card stack was about 3.5 inches high,” Patrick said. “He brought 4,000 cards with him for all the directors and has about 500 left, so you can see the incredible assets across the state.” After the directors figured up their assets, they planned itineraries for certain situations or groups of people. “We figure out where would someone maybe want to eat dinner the night before their full weekend or if you came into the community for breakfast where you would go,” Patrick said. “Or maybe you are really here to go kayaking or hiking. So it’s not just about the retail end of it but also about really welcoming those people into the community on their level. What are their interests? We are doing itineraries for culture and shopping, a guy’s weekend away, a girl’s weekend away. All those kinds of things along with what do families like to do when they come into a community?” Patrick added, “Watching these directors put together their own assets in the community to create a daylong or weekend stayover to bring hotel/motel tax dollars into their communities has been really cool.” Another aspect discussed during the conference was about rediscovering the community you already live in. “Once you live in a community for so long, you forget what’s there,” Patrick said. “So how can we help our residents remember what we have in downtown and really throughout the community?” The Fort Dodge Convention and Visitors Bureau, a sponsor of the workshop, is an excellent resource to discover Fort Dodge, Patrick said. Their website is fortdodgecvb.com For information relating to shopping or exploring downtown, Patrick recommends visiting mainstreetfd.org. Challenge grants Fort Dodge is in the running for a Main Street Iowa Challenge grant totaling $75,000. Patrick said the grant would be used to enhance a property at 1109 Central Ave., located across the street from Daniel Pharmacy. “It was purchased last spring and the upper apartments will be rehabilitated and a new business will be going on the first floor,” Patrick said. The owner of the property is HOM Investments 2 LLC. DEV Partners is going to manage the redevelopment project. Debi Durham, executive director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, will announce the Challenge grant winners at noon today.