Hunter Ice Festival garners acclaim for Niles downtownPublished 9:26am Friday, September 18, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
In Lansing Wednesday, the annual Michigan Downtown Conference awards presentation honored communities and individuals from across the state at the Lansing Center in Lansing Michigan.
Among those honored, Niles received special recognition for the annual Hunter Ice Festival.
At the Bensidoun French Market Thursday, where Niles Main Street’s Lisa Croteau manned the Main Street post, there was something new at the table, the award representing the Main Street Four Points Promotion.
“We’re thrilled,” Croteau said.
The 2009 Michigan Downtown Conference awards presentation “honored those around the state that have worked together within their cities and with state partners to take advantage of new initiatives and produce funding to revitalize Michigan’s cities, towns and villages.
“Through these efforts,” the organization stated, “they give the residents of the state a vibrant place to live.”
The annual conference focuses on bringing the best ideas, resources and educational sessions together to create an energetic environment to celebrate the growth of Michigan’s downtowns and the mind trust to solve the biggest challenges.
Croteau said Niles’ beloved winter festival, which battles the unique challenges of weather and still brought in 7,000 people to downtown last year, was picked among an estimated 14 different communities.
So what separates Niles’ ice festival from so many others?
“Part of the difference for us is the carvers that we’re able to have, we have established a relationship with,” said Chickie Landgraf, chairwoman of Main Street’s promotions committee. Master carvers enthusiastically take part in the festival each year.
“They do some really amazing things,” she added.
Croteau and Landgraf both feel the special partnership with carvers is a unique benefit for the festival and it’s one that they continue to cultivate each year.
“They are our customers,” said Landgraf.
“They have fun here, they love the town,” Croteau added. “They’re partners with us on this.”
Don’t be fooled by the warm weather, Croteau and Landgraf said they are already hard at work putting together this year’s festival and Croteau said there are some new things in the works, including a Murder Mystery presentation by the Four Flags Players.
As the seasons change, there are still plenty of events coming up to keep people busy downtown until the ice blocks arrive on Main Street, including the downtown trick or treat, costume contest at the Niles Public Library and, of course, the decorating and lighting of Main Street for the holiday season – and a visit from old St. Nick (a.k.a. Santa Claus).
“We’ve spoken to the North Pole,” Croteau said. “He’s ready and waiting to come.
“We’re really proud,” she added, about Niles’ recognition.
Over the years the city has pulled in awards at the same conference in various categories including one for manager, program and design project.
The Michigan Downtown Conference Partners include the Michigan Downtown Association, the Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Main Street Center at MSHDA, the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan, the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, Main Street Oakland County and the State Historical Preservation Office.
Additional information can be found at www.michigandowntownconference.org.