Published first on the Progress News, September 7, 2021

Over the last few weeks, we’ve looked at the impact of partnerships and cooperation – or the lack thereof – on community redevelopment efforts.  When partnerships are plentiful and productive, progress proliferates!  (Couldn’t help myself.)

This week I’d like to highlight one new local collaboration that is ticking all the boxes for how to Not kill your community.   It’s a cooperative initiative that encourages and supports new and existing businesses, engages with folks across age groups and backgrounds, builds on the strengths of our community, and provides a splash of joy and color while embracing something new and fun.

It started with a local business owner, Kim Page, and her love of Halloween.  Kim wanted to do something fun for Halloween outside the restaurant – the Emlenton Brewhaus – that she and her husband Wally recently opened on Main Street in Emlenton.   She began talking with other business owners about a Main Street Halloween party, and one of her employees, Becca Hunt, just happened to have recently moved from a town where they performed the viral “German Witch Dance” every year.  (Look it up on YouTube – so much fun!)

One conversation led to another, and we now have a working group of business owners, organizational folks, and residents who are coordinating a day of Halloween fun for the whole family, scheduled for Saturday, October 30th.  Thanks to the efforts of folks like Kim Page, Becca Hunt, Julie Powell of Little It, and Sarah Reynolds of the Civic Club, a proper street party is taking shape!  Early plans include a Main Street costume parade and trick-or-treating, vendors and music, and performances of the “German Witch Dance” by a newly formed local troupe.  There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to the dance group – @emlentonwitchdance – where anyone interested in joining in on the fun can get info.  For those who think they might want to put on their dancing shoes, the group meets every Tuesday evening at 6 at the Emlenton Civic Club building; everyone is welcome!

A final element that is taking shape is a scarecrow/jack-o-lantern decorating contest, based on an idea from the town of Eureka, Missouri (check it out at eurekascarecrowfestival.com).  Kim loved the playful and festive scarecrow displays in Eureka and wondered if we could do something similar here.  Again, one conversation led to another, and a plan was born to allow groups all across the Valley – businesses, social groups, churches, organizations, families, whoever wants to join in! – to create scarecrow masterpieces displayed along our main streets for the month of October.  For those who aren’t quite ready to go all in on a scarecrow creation, there will also be an option to create a jack-o-lantern display at the end of October.  The public will be able to vote on their favorites, which will be announced and celebrated during the Halloween Street Party!

All of these plans are still in their early stages, and anyone who has ideas or resources to add to the mix is invited to reach out.  More information will be put out through the paper, social networks, posters, and word of mouth as plans get firmed up, and if you want to be part of the working group, give a holler; we’d love to have you!