by KATHRYN DENTATO
Natalie Kahler, Executive Director of the Brooksville Main Street Program, reviewed recent activities as well as those in progress and upcoming. The Main Street designation was granted by the state in 2016. The purpose of the Main Street program is to revitalize historic downtown areas. The program is run by the Brooksville Vision Foundation.
• Brooksville Main Street and Destination Brooksville coordinated the Small Business Saturday event. Kahler said participants included 28 brick and mortar locations and 12 pop-up vendors. There were 115 passports given to shoppers, and 36 were returned for prizes.
• For the Festival of Trees Nov. 25 – Dec. 9, local businesses and non-profit organizations donated decorated trees. Bids are accepted until Dec. 9. The Festival of Trees is a fundraiser to pay for the Main Street Program’s design projects. Kahler reports that final bids on trees totaled $2495 and many tree viewers came from outside the Brooksville area: Tampa, Villages and Spring Hill.
• Caroling at the Courthouse will take place every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 6 pm until Christmas.
• Historic Downtown Brooksville’s Calendar of Events include local business activities as well.
Kahler also discussed community engagement projects that Brooksville Main Street has planned. These are collaborative efforts between the Main Street Program and other organizations that are working toward the same goals.
Kahler showed examples of how they can enhance smaller spaces or steps. Interactive murals, which allow the public to take action photos and tag the City of Brooksville, were also shown. The Arts Council now has members on the Design Team she said.
A Call to Artists was launched in October through contacts at the Arts Council, via Facebook, and through the Hernando Sun. Artists were asked to send in samples of their work in a portfolio by the middle of November and describe what they would paint on a specific site. Kahler showed the three sites that were suggested.
The artists will be paid out of the funds from the Moonlight over Main Street event at the rate of $5.00 per square foot. Steven Benevides and Gary Duquette were selected for the designs they submitted. Kahler said the third site has not received any submissions.
Florida Mermaid Trail
Kahler said the idea was developed by Matt and Bev Lowman after a visit to communities in other states. Thomasville, GA had mice figures all around as part of a walking trail.
After seeing this trend in other cities, the Lowmans thought it could be incorporated in Brooksville. There will be two trails, one that is 1.1 miles long, and one that is 2.2 miles long.
Brooksville Main Street is collaborating with several entities, including Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Artist Lee Middleton, the Arts Council, and tourism departments.
Before rebranding as Florida’s Adventure Coast, the tourism department bought all domain names that incorporated the words “Florida”, “mermaid”, and “trail.” Kahler said that the website will be available to Brooksville Main Street in a few weeks.
With the City’s approval, Kahler said there will be a phone app and paper map that visitors can use. She said the trail was designed with visitor safety in mind. If they are taking pictures, Kahler said they did not want visitors walking into traffic.
The free phone app, Distrx, is used by Main Street programs. Businesses can participate at no cost. A visitor will be able to navigate the City with the app, choosing sights, shops and restaurants. The Main Street Program will have to pay to add the homing beacon for the audio tour at specific stops.
Kahler said that information about each mermaid is intended to be global and inclusive. An example is the mermaid at the water tower. It describes her as athletic and discusses the Good Neighbor Trail.
The mermaids will be attached to locations with epoxy or by drilling into the building, depending on which is most appropriate for the site.
The social media presence includes:
Hashtag – #flmermaidtrail
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts under Florida Mermaid Trail
Kahler said the best way to describe the walking tour is to think of it as a “cross between geocaching…and Pokemon Go.” The interactive feature is the main reason Kahler wanted to ensure the mermaid locations were as safe as possible.
The anticipated launch of the Florida Mermaid Trail is mid-January 2020, as long as the website and paper map are completed and the mermaids are affixed to the 20 locations, including city property.
The agenda included discussion and a vote on the License Agreement for the Florida Mermaid Trail. Kahler said that their attorney, Daryl Johnston, requested a postponement.
The initial language called the mermaids “statutes,” but City Attorney Nancy Stuparich characterized them as “markers” because of their size and attempted to simplify the agreement. Stuparich said Johnston has not reviewed the changes due to the Thanksgiving holiday.
Mayor Joe Bernardini and Council members Betty Erhard and Pat Brayton objected to delaying a vote, saying the Main Street Program has consistently asked for postponements. The License Agreement was approved by a 5-0 vote.