Wausau River District recognized with two Wisconsin Main Street Awards
For the Wausau Times
WAUSAU – The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) recognized the best downtown revitalization projects of 2020 at the 30th Wisconsin Main Street Awards ceremony held virtually.
Wausau was recognized with two awards. The Diversity and Inclusion award for the Black Lives Matter march and the Best Special Event for Dining on the Street.
Diversity and Inclusion Award – Black Lives Matter March
The Wausau Black Lives Matter (BLM) March was recognized for the Diversity and Inclusion Award as a display of the most creativity and success in fostering and embracing diversity and inclusion within the community.
“The march, organized by CarmynHoen, Kayley McColley, Miah Medina, Christine Salm, Jaxon Seeger, and Gwen Taylor, created a space for collective mourning and called attention to the significant disparities in this country. Starting at the 400 block in downtown and with more than 3,000 community members in attendance, the march highlighted the importance of diversity and inclusion in creating a welcoming community for all. This was Wausau’s first large-scale demonstration, a historic moment for our community, and an event that has created dialogue and actions for change,” a River District release stated.
“Main Street districts are for everyone; they are places where our residents and visitors can come together and create memories. At the core of the main street approach is a commitment to creating places of shared prosperity, equal access to opportunity, and inclusive engagement,” says, Blake Opal-Wahoske, executive director at Wausau River District.
“For me, putting together the march was necessary. I was humbled by the amazing turnout! Thousands of people gathered peacefully in solidarity, renewing my hope in humanity! I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to mourn and heal as a united community,” says Gwen Taylor, one of the organizers of the event. “We still have much work to do; the event was just the beginning.”
Event organizer, Kayley McColley added,”I will never forget when I was at the front of the march, and I looked back and couldn’t see the end because there were so many people. I was flooded with so much grief, anger, and disappointment when this tragedy took place. However, at that moment, I felt this overwhelming sense of support, love, and community. It was beyond healing for me, and I want to thank Wausau for showing up.”
Best Special Event – Dining on the Street
Wausau River District also received the Best Special Event award for Dining on the Street series, which recognizes the Best Special Event showcasing excellence in a single, special event, festival, or promotional event series.
“In the wake of COVID-19 and the ever-changing restrictions placed on restaurant capacity, the Wausau River District used this as an opportunity to forge a new dining experience. Two blocks of Third Street are closed every Wednesday from 5-9 p.m. for restaurants to expand table service into the Street more than tripling their outdoor seating,” the release added.
“With eight restaurants participating in Dining on the Street offering various cuisines, weekly attendance ranged from 800-2,000, with such demand that reservations were recommended to secure outside seating. The series generated an estimated $600,000 in economic impact, created opportunities for local artists, and was often the best night of the week economically for restaurants.”
“The importance of outdoor Dining was highlighted by the pandemic. Outdoor seating gives restaurants additional capacity and allows customers to patron our restaurants in a safe manner,” Opal-Wahoske stated. “We couldn’t have done this event series without our partners Compass Properties and the City of Wausau.”
“Dining on the Street was a huge reminder that Mainstreet was open again, and all of the businesses are in this together. It was a great way to save some of the summer activities while keeping social distancing in mind,” Tyler Vogt, an owner of Malarkey’s Pub & Townies Grill, explained.