Not too many years ago, the growth along Highway 92 made for daily traffic jams and accidents. It was so dangerous we called the road the “Dixie Dieway.” The Georgia Department of Transportation, in all their sluggish wisdom, finally solved the problem. It took some doing. Turning a two-lane road (which wasn’t even paved in 1963) into an eight-to-10 lane highway with traffic lights and turn lanes was no small endeavor. During construction, the previous traffic tangle evolved into a nightmare of stop-and-go, constant frustration, barriers, detours, fender-benders, and mass confusion as folks tried to find alternative routes. The end result, a divided thoroughfare engineered for safety, was worth it all. We awoke from the nightmare to find a road that would take us east and west at 45 mph with sensor-controlled, coordinated, traffic signals, and a minimum of jams and accidents.
All this just to say: In spite of the mess in the downtown Woodstock business district, in a few months we will have forgotten it all, and the finished product will be so good, we’ll wonder why it wasn’t done sooner. Those orange cones and barricades will be gone. Trees, shrubs, flowers, and new vintage “street lamps” will be in place. Wide sidewalks will line both sides of Main Street, and with just a little luck and a lot of sweat, no store fronts will be vacant on Main or Chambers Streets. Pedestrian traffic, already high in spite of inconvenience, will increase with much more safety than ever before. Old stores will have new facades. A whole new customer base will discover the variety of shops and venues within easy walking distance. Restaurants will offer cuisine for any palate, from hot dogs to frozen yogurt.
I’m reminded of a little verse that I once embroidered on a pillow cover: “Make new friends. Keep the old. One is silver; the other, gold.” That would fit both merchants and customers. The array of specialty shops in town is becoming a magnet for discerning shoppers, while old faithfuls, such as Morgan Hardware, Seven Arrows, Woodstock Pharmacy and Samson’s Antiques, provide the anchor. New businesses, like the Cotton Mill Deli, the Glassmaker/Woodstock Art Glass, Alex n Sis kids consignment shop and the new pastaria eatery, will add exciting new elements to the mix. Entrepreneurship is alive and well and resides in downtown Woodstock. The optimistic spirit, conceived in a long-term vision, struggles through the labor of production to bear the creature of that vision. If onlookers will just hang around for a little while, it will all come together.
In the meantime, Friday Night Live activities, usually on hold for the winter months, will not skip a beat this year. The theme for Jan. 7 is “Main Street World Tour,” loosely based on “The Snow Queen,” the Elm Street Players’ current production. Participating merchants will plan their indoor activities around different countries. Seven Arrows will feature specials on foods and items made by the Navajo Indian Nation. Pennybag Emporium will focus on France, and, of course, you’ll find all things Mexican at Pure Taqueria.
February’s theme will be “Broadway on Main,” and March will be the traditional “Mardi Gras on Main.”
As the weather moderates, we can look forward to lots of carefree fun on the first Friday of every month as our new sidewalks and storefronts create an atmosphere of relaxation and recreation.
It all begins at 6 p.m. on those nights, with participating stores closing at 9 p.m. All with a special thanks to those folks with vision, those who conceived the idea of such a promotion, and those who helped to bring it to fruition, and to those visitors and customers who supported their efforts.
If we don’t have that gift of vision, we might just get out of the way when those who do possess the gift find the ways and means to make the vision a reality. More power to them, and more enjoyment for the rest of us.
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and the former director of the Woodstock Public Library.