Wilton Main Street Association

Wilton Main Street Association - Listening to the Community Speak, Bringing People Together  

A few weeks ago I visited Wilton’s Town Hall to renew my car registration and was stopped by the current exhibit in the Town Hall Gallery.  The Gallery was filled with photographs mounted on poster board illustrating all that has taken place under the Wilton Main Street Association (WMSA) umbrella for the past twenty five years. It’s a strong testament to what WMSA has meant to Wilton for a quarter century.

Wilton Main Street AsssociationTwo and half decades ago a group of Wilton folks got together and applied to the National Main Street Program. It was established in 1980 as a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation to address the issues facing older and historic towns, to bring economic vitality back downtown, to celebrate each town’s historic character, and bring their communities together. These are still the goals of Wilton’s Main Street Program under the leadership of Alison Meltzer and her board of directors.

I served on the original board and was one of the people involved in the Main Street application process.  I knew then it would be an important part of Wilton’s future, but was curious about how it had successfully outlasted many different administrations, program and board changes.  I needed to speak with Alison.

We met in the WMSA office in the Wilton Falls Building where the voice of the Souhegan River below sooths and inspires those above. This is where so many innovative Main Street programs were hatched and came to fruition over the years. Memorabilia fills the room and the entry-way. 

Alisaon MeltzerAlison explained, “We use every means possible to keep the program running. It’s the energy and the love for Wilton from our volunteers that keeps it going,” along with fund raising and a modest stipend from the town.

February 10th marks Winter Fest, the next event on the Main Street agenda. It was founded two years ago in homage to the 1930s Winter Carnivals.  A highlight this year will be the ice carving demonstration carried out by Ice Breakers with a Chinese New Year’s Dragon the featured ice sculpture.  Children will be entertained by Miss Boo reading stories and then toasting marshmallows around a campfire in the park, while adults are invited to a the Arts Market in Town Hall and the Chili Cook-off Contest in the Community Center’s Collaborative Space.  A prequel event at the Library, on the 8th, will feature a Humanities to Go program entitled New Hampshire Medicine: The Native American Roots of Maple Sugaring.

Most Main Street events are inspired by Board or Design Committee members.  Alison wants to thank them all for their years of support including Mickey Pieterse, the only remaining Design Committee member from the original group twenty-five years ago. Others on the Board and/or the Design Committee, are Janet Dewitt, Randy Kohler, Michelle Levesque, Kate Schimke, Patsy Belt, Diane Jarest, Connie Sawyer, Sara Spittle, and Lynne Stone. It’s a small team that welcomes new members.

One of the exceptions to Board members being behind events was the idea for the Wilton “Creeps” figures that are now symbols of a Wilton Halloween. This was the idea of Randy Kohler before he joined the Main Street Board.  Alison also mentioned the energy of Tracy Ewing before her untimely death, as the original impetus behind Wilton’s Halloween celebration.

Another Board member;  artist, musician, and shop owner, Kate Schimke, has been the driving force behind the Arts Market and the twice yearly Wander Through Wilton event that takes the place of  NH Open Doors. This event is the highlight of Mother’s Day weekend where mothers and daughters often tour town together and then again in November when people will Wander Through Wilton with their “Passport Wander Pass” to be stamped at each business they visit.

Summer Fest, is the ‘baby’ of Board Member, Michelle Levesque who, according to Alison, has been the “mastermind” behind it since 2014, and exists the way it does because of her efforts.  She explained, “It is one event where so many organizations and people work together to make it happen including the Masons, Lions, Fire Department, Boy Scouts, Community Center, Library, Andy’s Summer Playhouse, the artist community and Wilton Businesses.”

She added, “It’s really important to understand that the entire community is behind bringing us together.” This collaboration between different Wilton organizations and businesses is what Alison believes is the strength of WMSA:  Each with a voice in its future. 

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