On the last Thursday of the summer months, downtown Chillicothe resembles a small street fair with visitors mingling and shopping among the city’s small unique shops and vendors with an eclectic mix of wares.
“It gives people a reason to come downtown other than to pay their water bill. I’ve had people tell me they’ve never been downtown before or they didn’t know we had a town theater, and they’re from Chillicothe,” said Rachael Parker, the city’s economic development director who oversees the town’s Downtown Thursdays.
Now in its fifth year, the event kicked off last week with a Taste of Chillicothe that highlighted food available from various town stores and eateries. About 100 people turned out to buy food samples priced at $3 or less at booths set up Odie’s, Castaways, Little Land of Candy N’ More, Nat’s Place, Triple Dipple’s, Willie’s Tamale’s and Swanee’s Soft Pretzels, among others.
The Downtown Thursdays event runs from 5 to 8 p.m. and will feature an old-fashioned Corn Boil in July and a Back-to-School Bash in August. Admission is free and parking is plentiful behind the buildings on Second Street.
“Downtown Thursdays came about through our marketing and tourism committee,” Parker said. “They had something similar to this years ago, and they wanted to bring it back for the community.”
The event has grown in the past five years mostly by word-of-mouth as more people have become aware of it. The monthly themes are a way to create excitement and give each event a little bit of a twist, Parker added.
During the event, Second Street is blocked off between Walnut and Chestnut streets, and the 10 or so stores in those two blocks are encouraged to bring sale items out to the street among booths set up by vendors from around the area.
“There’s no cost to be a vendor, and they can come from anywhere. They don’t just have to be from the city of Chillicothe,” Parker said. “They can be anything from home-based businesses to home crafters.”
Among the participating Second Street stores each month are Wishing Star Boutique, Star Fish Cottage, Covered Wagon Crafts, Little Shop of Hoarders, Midwest Farm Charm and Owens Design Group.
Vendors typically include Courtland Street Designs, which offers pottery, wood signs and hair accessories; Yankee Lane Alpacas, which offers alpaca yarn and hand-knitted products; Perfectly Posh; Graham Cracker Crochet; Paparazzi jewelry; Hello Dolly clothing boutique; Rag Rugs Galore; Thirty-One; Pink Zebra; Debbie’s Tupperware; Chasing Rainbows, which offers home and garden seasonal items; Renewal by Andersen and The Country Store’s baked goods by Janice Ulrich.
Past social media reviews have said Downtown Thursdays “are a very nice atmosphere with lots of cool shops in beautiful downtown Chillicothe” and “a good time (was had) at everyone of them. I am looking forward to next year.”
Chillicothe resident Tammy Hollis said, “I love this event. It is a great way to meet people in our small town and see folks you have not seen in awhile. It’s a wonderful community vibe. Friendly vendors and cute shops are popping up all over downtown.”
Parker said she hopes more people from outside Chillicothe will use Downtown Thursdays as a way to explore what the city has to offer.
The Downtown Thursdays Corn Boil on July 26 will feature all-you-can eat locally grown corn cooked by Castaways, as well as a choice of a brat or chicken breast, baked beans, chips and cole slaw for $8 or less, depending on the meat choice.
The food tent will be located at the American Legion, 1042 N. Second St., while the stores and vendors will be set up along the street. The event will also feature live entertainment.
“This year for the first time they passed an open container ordinance, so people can get a drink at the American Legion or any of the businesses that sell alcohol and walk on the street with it while this event is going on,” Parker said. “They will have wristbands that identify them as being of age to have that cup in their hand.”
The Back-to-School Bash on Aug. 30 will feature face painting, a performance by the IVC band and horseback riding for both kids and adults by River City Rough Riders.
“We do the horseback riding at City Park, and they just kind of trot you around the park at no charge. Everybody loved it last year, so we’re bringing them back again,” Parker said.
In past years, Downtown Thursdays has hosted popular events such as Chillicothe’s Got Talent, which typically drew a big crowd, Parker noted.
“People enjoy that the event is free, and it gives them a chance to go into some of the shops that might close early through the week but stay open later that night,” she said. “Hopefully, there are also vendors out here that they aren’t familiar with so they can see what’s out there and patronize them.”
No rain date is scheduled for the Downtown Thursdays events, but Parker said in the past five years the event has only been rained out once.
“People who are curious or who have never had a chance to check out Chillicothe will find this is a good time to try it, especially since there’s really no cost involved,” she said.
For more information, call Rachael Parker at 309-274-3107 or visit the event’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ChillicotheDowntownThursdays.
—Chillicothe’s main streets turns festive during monthly Downtown Thursdays–