Your 2018 Great American Main Street Award Semi-Finalists


September 1, 2017 | National Main Street Center |


This week, we revealed the ten 2018 Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA) semi-finalists on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s easily our favorite week of the year—what these Main Street America communities have accomplished through hard work, creativity, and dedication to putting the Main Street Approach into action is nothing short of incredible.

“The Great American Main Street Award is the highest recognition given out by the National Main Street Center.” said Patrice Frey, the National Main Street Center’s President and CEO.  “Each year, we look forward to celebrating the semi-finalists, who are exceptional Main Street America organizations, working to create more economically, socially, and culturally vibrant commercial districts. They are a testament to the power of the Main Street Approach, and the great potential of downtown districts in cities and towns across the country.”

And the numbers prove it. Together, this year’s semi-finalists have generated over half a billion dollars in public and private reinvestment, while creating 4,910 new jobs, opening 917 new businesses, rehabbing 1,232 buildings and clocking over 353,000 volunteer hours.

Thank you to U.S. Bank for their generous sponsorship of the 2018 Great American Main Street Awards. We look forward to announcing the winners this March at the 2018 Main Street Now Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

Learn more about GAMSA.

Berlin Main Street • Berlin, Maryland 

Year Founded: 2009 | Population: 4,500 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 10
Annual Bathtub Races are just one of 40+ events organized in historic downtown Berlin each year. Photo Credit: Natalee Dehart

Berlin, located on the Blue Crab Scenic Byway, is small but mighty. This town of just 4,500 has received much recognition over the years, including being named one of the 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2016 by Smithsonian Magazine. In their short nine-year history, Berlin Main Street has significantly reduced the downtown storefront vacancy rate from 30 percent to near 0 percent. It’s said that people don’t “work” in Berlin—they are living their entrepreneurial dreams. Even Millennials who went to college elsewhere are returning to Berlin to open their own businesses.

Brunswick Downtown Association • Brunswick, Maine

Year Founded: 2004  | Population: 20,278| Square Blocks in Commercial District: 17
Children enjoy Music on the Mall, a 10-week summer concert series hosted by the BDA. Photo provided by Tiffany Studio.

Brunswick is the quintessential New England village, with an exciting restaurant, shopping and entertainment scene that satisfies everyone from students to retirees. They also happen to be Maine’s only town to earn the League of American Bicyclist’s “Bicycle-Friendly Community” designation.

But this wasn’t always so—after the nearby Brunswick Naval Station closed in 2008, taking with it over 5,000 officers, enlisted civilians and their families, many businesses relocated or failed. The Brunswick Downtown Association BDA took over the Main Street program in 2012 and now there is a waiting list to occupy future spaces. With the Main Street Approach—and thoughtful collaboration with local government, nonprofits and residents—the BDA doesn't follow trends, they create them!

Main Street Chillicothe • Chillicothe, Missouri

Year Founded: 2001  | Population: 9,504 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 16
Main Street Chillicothe’s newest event, Farm to Table, celebrated Chillicothe’s agricultural roots and downtown successes AND raised money for the Cultural Arts District. Photo credit: Bobby Pauley

Chillicothe, nestled in the green, rolling hills of Northern Missouri, is a vibrant community brimming with small town hospitality and charm—as well as all the amenities and conveniences of a larger locale. Did we also mention that it was the first city in the world to offer commercially sliced bread to the public in 1928?

Main Street Chillicothe attributes its many successes to strong partnerships with local government, the business sector, and community stakeholders. For example, Main Street partnered with the Chillicothe Farmer’s Market on Sliced Bread Saturday to help educate and promote residents of the importance of using local, fresh goods. And thanks to an award-winning retail incubator, Main Street Holiday House, a once blighted area of downtown has been transformed into a hub of commerce and activity.

Grapevine Main Street Program • Grapevine, Texas

Year Founded: 1984 | Population: 49,479| Square Blocks in Commercial District: 14
Cool jazz, great Texas wine, the vintage Cotton Belt Railroad Depot, and Grapevine Vintage Railroad passenger cars set the stage for great nightlife in Grapevine. Photo Credit: Grapevine Main Street Program

Grapevine takes hospitality very seriously. The city, located just 30 minutes from both Dallas and Fort Worth, welcomes over 15 million visitors annually!

Since Grapevine Main Street’s inception in 1984, the downtown has been transformed from drab to picturesque. And their commitment to maintaining a diverse Main Street business mix and year-round calendar of events benefits tourists and locals alike. So whether you come to shop, eat, drink (yes, Grapevine has wine!), or soak up the historic charm, when it comes to things to see and do in Grapevine, the list is Texas-sized.

Howell Main Street, Inc. • Howell, Michigan

Year Founded: 2005 | Population: 9,592| Square Blocks in Commercial District: 8
Cleary's Pub patio & outdoor seating packed for Rock the Block. Photo Credit: Richard Lim Photography

Howell, a small, rural community located between Lansing and Detroit, is different….in a good way! They pride themselves on community warmth and generosity, in addition to their bustling business district.

When Howell first became a Main Street in 2005 they already had a low storefront vacancy rate. However, many of the first-floor spaces were occupied by professional or service-based businesses that didn’t always attract people downtown. Over the last 12 years, Howell Main Street has not only further reduced the vacancy rate, but also diversified the mix of businesses to foster a strong sense of place to attract and keep people downtown.

Downtown Oregon City Association • Oregon City, Oregon

Year Founded: 2008 | Population: 36,286 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 35
Oregon City Brewing Company has transformed a dilapidated used car lot into a vibrant family-friendly community gathering spot. Photo Credit: Downtown Oregon City Association

Oregon City, located just south of Portland, is perched next to the powerful Willamette Falls. It’s also the official End of the Oregon Trail.

Since their start just nine years ago, the Downtown Oregon City Association has placed a strong emphasis on evolving to meet the community needs. Each year they hold a public visioning session to take input on priorities directly from the community. And it’s paid off—an industrial district for over a century, downtown has become the civic heart of Oregon City. So whether you’re there to visit one of the many independently owned businesses, take in the dramatic views of downtown and the river from the bluff above, or participate in The Oregon Trail® Game 5K, there’s something for everyone.

Rock Springs Main Street • Rock Springs, Wyoming

Year Founded: 2006 | Population: 23,755 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 48
Classic car enthusiasts invade Downtown Rock Springs each June for the Rods & Rails Car Show, featuring over 125 antique cars and motorcycles. Photo Credit: Rock Springs Main Street

Rock Springs is located in the heart of the Wild West, surrounded by high desert landscape, sage-dotted prairies, and wide open spaces. Thanks to the town’s gritty, can-do attitude and inclusive spirit, Rock Springs has reinvented itself time and again, with Rock Springs Main Street leading the last 10 years.

Rock Springs Main Street has placed an extra emphasis on historic preservation, working tirelessly to rehab two anchor buildings in the district— the long-abandoned Freight Station and the Broadway Theater, which received nearly $750,000 in in-kind contributions for its renovation. In 2016 alone, these two buildings hosted over 130 events and brought 15,000+ people to downtown.

Saline Main Street • Saline, Michigan

Year Founded: 2011 | Population: 8,810 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 4
Kids enjoy a free concert at Saline's Summer Music Series downtown. Photo Credit: Saline Main Street

Saline, a small town located five miles from Ann Arbor, boasts the perfect combination of historic buildings and modern amenities, attracting visitors and residents of all ages.

Saline Main Street focuses on supporting and recruiting amazing businesses—individual business owners are the backbone of downtown, after all. The key to their success? Saline Main Street has a broad base of dedicated volunteers. In six short years, they have generated nearly 32,000 volunteer hours in a community of just under 9,000 people.

Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association • Tupelo, Mississippi

Year Founded: 1990 | Population: 35,688 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 47
The active alleyway beside Crave, Tupelo's late-night dessert cafe, gives visitors and residents the perfect opportunity to enjoy live music and choose from an array of desserts. Photo Credit: Tupelo CVB

Tupelo is a vibrant, small town located in the center of the Mississippi Hills. Famous for being the birthplace of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock n’ Roll still serves as strong foundation for tourism and entertainment in Downtown Tupelo.

In their impressive 27-year history, the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association has generated over $165 million in public/private investment and received over 60 awards. However, their true legacy is the impact their work has made for the people who call Tupelo home. Tupelo Main Street continues to make Tupelo an even better play to live, work and play.

Wausau River District, Inc. • Wausau, Wisconsin

Year Founded: 2002 | Population: 39,106 | Square Blocks in Commercial District: 34
Chalkfest boasts a football field worth of chalk paintings throughout downtown and continues to set records for both attendance and sales at downtown businesses.  Photo Credit: O'Brien

Located on the Wisconsin River in north central Wisconsin, Wausau offers an appealing mix of city culture and outdoor recreation. The best part about the River District? Its ability to bring people together.

Over its 15-year history, Wausau River District has become a thriving organization, leading comprehensive downtown revitalization efforts and cultivating numerous partnerships with local entities. They play host to 100 events each year, drawing over 72,000 visitors annually. Downtown housing continues to grow and several major employers have set up shop in the River District—through most restaurant and retail tenants remain locally owned and operated!