Work on the parking lot of the Decatur Public Library started this week after the City Council recently approved spending nearly one million dollars for resurfacing and landscaping of the community eyesore. Fortunately, the parking lot is mostly shielded from view for drivers on North Franklin Street, one of the major arteries through downtown, by the library building itself. For those driving by the library on East Main, East Prairie and MLK, viewing the library parking lot is much like viewing the awful condition of state roads that go through on city.
City Librarian Rick Meyer is informing the public that, with the work on the parking lot beginning, parking is going to be limited to the easternmost portion of the parking lot and a few spots, including handicapped sports, in the southwestern portion of the library facing Main Street. “In addition to this, the City of Decatur has reserved several spots for library patrons on both levels of the parking garage oppsite the library on the corner of Main Street and Franklin,” said Meyer. Meyer also said that construction is expected to last until the end of November, but access to the new portion of the lot is expected to begin earlier, adding that the
“Decatur Public Library will not change its operating hours during construction. Pedestrian access will be limited to the southern portion of the building entrance and library patrons will access from Main Sgreet or the southwestern portion of the parking lot.” For updates the website address is www.decaturlibrary.org .
• MORE SPACES? On Friday, Decatur Public Library Foundation Member Mark W. Sorensen, sent the following email to Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe and five of the six city council members (Councilman Pat McDaniel was excluded probably because he was the lone vote against the million dollar library parking lot improvement): “Please reconsider the DPL parking spaces in August. 96 normal spaces are not enough.
“Not too late to add 50 spaces to the east at ‘minimal’ cost now. “None of the parents with kids or seniors like me will be willing to park at the remote lot. Will you make librarians the only city staff to have to pay for their own parking at a remote site?”
Sorensen attached two photos showing the crowds at kids’ programs two different days in the past week. No reaction yet from any city council member.
• IT WAS a nice gesture by the Decatur Celebration to feature the event’s founder and producer Fred Puglia, as the Grand Marshal of the Razzle Dazzle Good Times Parade Saturday morning. Fred was, and still is, a master promoter and returned a hero this year. Many people now recognize what Fred created in the Celebration many years ago and, during the parade, they came over to the parade car to shake Fred’s hand in appreciation. Also, honored during this year’s Celebration were Jim Masey and Orv Graham, who were there at the beginning with Fred. Of course, the late Mayor Gary Anderson was also very instrumental in getting the Decatur Celebration off of the ground and running. It was with some of that same spirit that local leaders and others stepped forward to save the Decatur Celebration this year. Without their efforts, and so many who don’t get the credit they deserve, the Celebration would not have happened this past weekend.
• FENCING around the outside of the Decatur Celebration footprint seemed to be a little tighter this year. I had trouble getting to the newspaper office because the front doors of the Millikin Court Building at 132 South Water Street, were fenced off. I thought about hiring a chopper to fly me to the roof of the building, but decided to use the back door instead. (I have a key which made it a little easier to gain access.)
As I recall, this year was the first time the front doors were fenced in and no one could get in or out. Actually, I could open the front doors once I was inside the building, but when I emerged I found fencing on all sides connecting to the building. I thought about barking like a dog since I was fenced in, but that was probably a little inappropriate. I always try to do what’s appropriate. (smile).
Most downtown business owners are inconvenienced during Celebration weekend, but look on it, as I do, if the event is good for our city, then a little inconvenience one weekend a year is a small price to pay.
• I DID HAVE plenty of Thai Grill Chicken and Veg. Fry Rice over the weekend. That’s always my first choice for something to eat during the Celebration. In fact, I had it four times in two days and, after eating all of that chicken and rice I can truthfully admit that it was good, but I don’t want any more chicken and rice until next year. Actually, I did want to try one of the shredded chicken tacos from one of the vendors on North Franklin Street, but I thought $10 for one taco was a little high. It might have been a much larger taco than I usually get at local Mexican restaurants but I didn’t have a ruler with me to measure it. Most of the food items and drinks seemed a little high in price, but I realize the vendors have to show a profit or there isn’t much point for them to come to the Celebration. One item that I usually get, an elephant ear (I have to eat one each Celebration) was a good deal. It was one huge elephant that had that ear and it was only $5.00! I asked if it would be cheaper to buy the whole elephant. Of course, those working the concession looked at me like they thought I was crazy! Well, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
• THE CELEBRATION parade seemed extra long this year with a lot of entries. Having worked on the farm in my teenage years, I was especially fascinated by the Farmall “M” tractor in the parade and couldn’t help shooting a photo of it. When I started working on the farm, I drove a smaller Farmall, an “H”, but I always looked forward to driving the “M”. I think that’s what makes the Razzle Dazzle Goodtimes Parade special because there’s something in it for everybody — and like the tractor, the entries can generate memories of what once was and what will be — plus what’s happening now.
• OVERALL, the people I talked with on the streets of the Celebration seemed pleased with this year’s event. When I talked with Orv Graham on Monday, he thought this year’s Celebration seemed more like it was years ago when the event was young and he enjoyed the change. I received comments from a few people about how parts of the downtown that normally had concessions and attractions were empty. That reaction could have been from the Celebration moving some of the concessions and vendors to other parts of the downtown layout. I know that, over the years, the space in front of our former building on North Park Street, usually had picnic tables and no vendors in front of it, offering a clear view of the Celebration out the front windows. This year I noticed that area lined with vendors, which probably resulted in the space they once occupied looking empty somewhere else in the downtown area.
• THE FOOTPRINT of the Celebration is smaller than it once was, but that started happening a few years ago, not this year. The weather could not have been better for the event this year. The festival has, overall, had good weather during its run each year. In some of the early years, it was extremely hot. I remember taking three or four shirts with me to some of the really hot (weather-wise) Celebrations because I would be drenched with sweat after walking around the downtown area for a while in the 100 degree heat.
Fortunately, the Tribune has been located downtown during all the years the Celebration has been held so I’ve always had an office where I could cool off, change shirts and head out to shoot more photos and talk to more festival-goers about their experiences at the event.
• I ALSO TALKED via phone and email to some people who normally attend the festival, but didn’t go this year, and asked them why. Their answers centered around the cost of going and the price of food and drink at the concessions. A few, living on fixed incomes, indicated they had to choose between the Celebration and putting food on their table at home. While many lament the passing of the early days of the Decatur Celebration, when there were no wristbands to buy, or fencing around the event, there’s no doubt the “free” days will not be returning. It’s obvious that, without charging admission the event can’t survive and that’s not going to change. While the argument is made that attending the Celebration is less expensive than other events in the area, those who can’t afford the Celebration don’t go to other events for the same reason.
• THE MOST fascinating aspect of the Celebration is arriving in downtown early Monday morning and everything connected to the Celebration — fencing, vendors, stages, etc. —has disappeared. The workers who transform downtown back to the way it was before the Celebration deserve a lot of praise.