This year’s America’s Main Streets contest was unlike any other. During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, support for small businesses and downtown districts soared, as a record-breaking 1.5 million total votes were cast throughout the competition. Now, as a true testament to its local impact, the winning Main Street will give back to the local businesses that have been severely impacted by COVID-19 in recent months.
The winner this year’s contest is Sykesville Main Street in Carroll County, Maryland. Sykesville is a quaint small town, home to 4,400 residents, with a vibrant downtown area that is rich in history, art displays and annual events. Located along the Patapsco River, the community celebrates its rich history as a former railway hub through attractions like the S&P Railway model train displays and the Little Sykes Railway Park.
In addition to its new title as America’s Favorite Main Street, Sykesville was previously named the Coolest Small Town in America in 2016—and it’s easy to see why both titles are fitting of this community. The downtown district is home to more than 40 local businesses, which are strongly supported by the Downtown Sykesville Connection (DSC). DSC keeps the community green and bustling by maintaining community gardens, funding microgrants to downtown businesses and organizing volunteers.
Now, DSC’s work will go a little further—in an urgent way. The organization plans to use its $25,000 cash prize to support its downtown businesses that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Winning this contest is about more than just adding another accolade to our already wonderful list of accomplishments as a Main Street program. It allows us to provide even more support to our local business community in a time of dire need,” explains Julie Della-Maria, executive director of Downtown Sykesville Connection. “Along with an existing microgrant program with the Town of Sykesville, we plan to use our cash prize to help our members get through the coronavirus crisis.”
As businesses try to sustain and rebuild following the coronavirus-caused shutdowns that began spring, DSC plans to create virtual “shop small” events and help Main Street businesses retrofit their facades for socially distant shopping with outdoor waiting and dining plazas. The organization will also organize themed shopping events and create various marketing materials for downtown businesses.
This is exactly the type of work that the America’s Main Streets contest honors and celebrates. Independent We Stand created the contest to promote the important role that Main Streets play in building economic success for their communities. This year, as the coronavirus pandemic debilitated many small businesses and downtown districts across the country, the importance of Main Streets and their organizations was clearer than ever.
Along with the $25,000 cash prize, Sykesville Main Street will also take home additional contest prizes, including a $1,000 STIHL Equipment Certificate, a $500 Do it Best Corp. shopping spree, a free one-day downtown assessment from Flip This Town, a $500 Nationwide Marketing Group shopping spree and a $500 PPG Paints shopping spree.
In addition to Sykesville Main Street’s victory, this year’s contest recognized other successful Main Street programs across the country. The top 10 semifinalists, in alphabetical order, are:
- Chattahoochee Main Street, Chattahoochee, Fla.
- Downtown Bedford, Bedford, Pa.
- Emporia Main Street, Inc., Emporia, Kan.
- Historic Downtown Hope, Hope, Ark.
- Historic Downtown Snohomish Association, Snohomish, Wash.
- Main Street Homer, Homer, La.
- NewTown Macon, Macon, Ga.
- Osborne Main Street, Osborne, Kan.
- Public Square, Columbia, Ky.
- Sykesville Main Street, Sykesville, Md.
The America’s Main Streets contest is sponsored by STIHL, Inc., the founding sponsor of Independent We Stand. This year’s contest was also sponsored by Do it Best Corp., Flip This Town, Nationwide Marketing Group, the North American Retail Hardware Association, the Paint & Decorating Association and PPG Paints.
For more information about Sykesville Main Street, visit www.sykesvillemainstreet.com.