9/11

About 30 people gathered on the lawn of the Christian County Courthouse Sept. 11 for prayer and patriotic songs.

The idea is very young, but we are excited at the idea that parts of historic downtown Ozark may be bustling with life and activity in the evenings.

Christian County Presiding Commissioner Ralph Phillips called a meeting with other elected officials at the end of June to bounce an idea around the room. Phillips missed the fun and excitement that came with the Christian County Historic Courthouse lawn hosting the Ozark Farmers Market, and he wanted to see if he wasn’t alone.

The farmers market has since moved to Bass Pro Shops’ Finley Farms, and Phillips supports the move. What he missed, however, is the feeling that came from strolling around the booths, listening to some live musicians, and stopping to talk with locals who wanted a break from the bustle of life.

“Thursday night everybody just kind of went to the square. They had the vendors down there at the farmer’s market, and we’d always take a lawn chair,” Phillips said. “Sometimes we were only there an hour, but it was a community gathering place. Anytime you can engage in conversation and slow down, you’re going to take more in. It was just that warm, everybody relaxed and we talked.”

Phillips wants to see downtown Ozark become a place that’s more active on more evenings. Presently, he said much of the action is limited to days when the offices in the courthouse are open, though some of the restaurants do bring in evening diners.

“All of a sudden there is life down here,” Phillips said, gesturing around the historic courthouse. “I think our culture kind of needs that.”

Christian County owns the Historic Courthouse lawn property, and therefore controls what happens on the law and in the courthouse gazebo. Phillips brought together different officeholders who work in the historic courthouse to discuss downtown revitalization efforts.

“It’s in its infancy right now,” Phillips said.

The officeholders expressed their support for the courthouse lawn being used again for public gatherings, events and small concerts. Phillips is hopeful that the concerts they would book would draw crowds.

“We’re talking well-recognized musicians,” Phillips said.

Crowds on the square are good for the businesses here. We’ve seen it firsthand in our office, even though we aren’t a restaurant, retailer or boutique. As a part of the downtown business community, we are excited when our neighbors succeed, we try out and browse the new shops that move in, and we are devastated when a downtown business closes.

Granted, free concerts on the downtown square won’t equate to millions of dollars in added revenue, but they certainly won’t do anything to hurt the financial statements for the small business owners in our neighborhood.

Events on the courthouse lawn have caused organizational problems in the past, but we’re hopeful that the past has been a good teacher for better events to come. We’re glad that the officeholders of Christian County are willing to play host to some future gatherings, and we look forward to being there to document the fun and excitement.

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