Becoming the focal point of community celebrations
The summer of celebration in downtown Amherst is the 2013 Amherst News story of the year.
Amherst’s downtown festivals during the summer and fall of 2013 are this year’s Amherst News story of the year. Consideration was also given to the stalled River Hebert school project, the provincial election in October and the sharing of services between Amherst and the Municipality of Cumberland.
AMHERST – From being an almost forgotten part of Amherst to the focal point of community celebrations, this past summer’s season of festivals is this year’s Amherst News’ story of the year.
Coming a couple of years after Amherst invested several million in revitalizing the downtown core with new pavement, sidewalks and lights and a refurbished Victoria Square, the downtown hosted a series of successful festivals in 2013 that helped restore its place as the heartbeat of the community.
“It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it and have everyone working together toward a common goal,” Downtown Amherst Business Advisory Committee marketing sub-committee chairwoman Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin said.
“Where this all came from what a group of people, business people and the town all working together in a spirit of co-operation and mutual respect. This was something we accomplished as a community and the successful events in 2013 were because of everyone working together.”
For the first time in more than a quarter century Amherst hosted a successful Wild Blueberry Harvest Festival in mid-August while the Downtown Street Party returned for a second year and the Maritime Rockabilly Shakedown Festival in September are helping to make Amherst the rockabilly capital of eastern Canada.
There were also four artisans markets in Amherst and Smith-McCrossin said Stephanie Moreau and Matt Cormier are planning to hold more in 2014. These markets helped raise awareness of the area’s talented artisans while also promoting shopping in downtown Amherst on Saturdays when things are quieter than other days.
Amherst also hosted another successful Fibre Arts Festival with most of the events held in the downtown.
Smith-McCrossin credited organizers of the MARS festival for helping attract people to the community from across the region and beyond, while business owners played a huge role in organizing other events in the downtown.
“I think all this helped make all of us proud to be part of the downtown,” Smith-McCrossin said. “You don’t see that in other parts of the community. We have a group of people who all know each other and are willing to work together. We have come a long way, but there’s still much more we can accomplish.”
Also garnering consideration was continuing saga around River Hebert’s stalled school renovation project. Stalled since early 2012, the province eventually took over management of the project from the school board and announced the awarding of the $6.15-million tender to Dora Construction.
Another possibility was the election of Liberal Terry Farrell in Cumberland North and Jamie Baillie in Cumberland South. Farrell’s election in October ended the NDP experiment in Cumberland North, while some pundits were preparing to write Baillie’s political obituary. Not only did he get re-elected in Cumberland South, but his Progressive Conservatives are now the official opposition in Nova Scotia.
Other top stories included the start of construction of the new West Highlands Elementary in the former Lions Park property, Amherst and the Municipality of Cumberland starting the process to eventually share their corporate and finance departments and a fall storm on the Cobequid Pass that stranded motorists for several hours.