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New energy, effort in Kissimmee Main St.

Posted on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 6:00 am

By Ken Jackson
Staff Writer
If the new group leading Kissimmee Main Street has their way, upcoming downtown events will have a recurring theme.
Bigger.
New Executive Director Diana Marrero-Pinto, who formerly supervised Osceola’s first-time homeowner assistance program, said she is getting out to talk to the area’s merchants and giving them an ear and a sounding board. That should help everybody’s business and marketing efforts succeed.
“From what I was told, there’s been a break in communication,” she said. “Shelby Lomen, the new events coordinator as of March, is determined to represent the merchants and give them a sense they have value. We owe it to support them.”
Marrero-Pinto recently held a joint meeting with the Downtown Business Association of Kissimmee to get ideas from businesses and see how the annual events in the downtown can be done better. One of the recurring themes was bridging the two or three-block gap between Lakefront Park, where downtown Kissimmee’s big-ticket events are held, and Broadway, where the permanent, longtime merchants are.
“We love the lakefront, don’t get me wrong,” she said. “We just need to tie it into the downtown corridor and we can uplift the whole area.”
Jeremy Lanier of Lanier’s Historic Downtown Marketplace said it was a reminder to business owners that they’re in it together to bring people downtown.
“We’re really not in competition,” he said. “But this was the first free flow of ideas back and forth in years, and we need that because it’s about to get very interesting in downtown, with the Mosaic project and SunRail coming online soon.”
Small things can make a difference. Part of the goody bag for racers in the Kissimmee 5K and March for Meals races included discount sheets for the stores. Attendees of the Kowtown Festival and Rib Rodeo got the same. Lomen said store traffic was greater for that lakefront event than last week’s art festival, which was right on Broadway.
Starting next year there will be a Thursday bike bonanza, a Friday afternoon sidewalk sale and an evening

News-Gazette Photo/Martin Maddock
Kissimmee Main Street officials are currently examining how events could be better in downtown Kissimmee, shown above.

“Downtown Hoedown” with music and food during the Festival.
“We were up from 30 to 50 cooking teams this year, but after they set up on Friday they had nothing to do,” Lomen said. “We’re creating another purpose for them to come see what downtown Kissimmee’s about.”
When a business suggested a trolley to connect downtown and the lakefront, Marrero-Pinto let her mind wander; the trolley route in her head includes a loop that points out historical landmarks.
As for the near future, the Farmer’s Market will get new hours and a possible new venue. Beginning May 2, it runs from 9 a.m. to noon on the first and third Thursdays, and Main Street staff is looking to return it to the Broadway sidewalks in front of stores, where it was held decades ago.
Halloween will get a new event, the Kissimmee Case Race — a soap box derby-type casket race down Broadway, sponsored by a local funeral home. Police and fire teams will have their own race.
Lanier said businesses were receptive to bringing back “Dining on Broadway,” done in yesteryear, where people buy discount food tickets they can take to any eatery, choose from a shortened menu then eat outdoors along the street.
“It would bring local residents in to bring the neighborhood together and create a local vibe,” he said.
Ideas like this have been running through Marrero-Pinto’s head, she said — when she hasn’t been working.
“When I came in October it was Halloween on Broadway, then the storefront window decorations, then the Christmas parade, then the 5K and March for Meals, then the Kowtown festival,” she said. “I’d rather be busy, but going from one event to the next has left me few moments to breathe.”
But, Lomen said, it’s that effort the business community wants to see.
“The merchants have told us, ‘We just want somebody to come see us and listen to us,’” she said. “They want to see us working for them and that we’re here for them.”