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Community Spotlight: Athens, Alabama

April 4, 2019 | Community Spotlight: Athens, Alabama 

Athens Main Street places rocking chairs painted by local artists around their downtown area to encourage visitors to linger longer and enjoy shops and restaurants. The rocking chairs are mobile and are strategically placed in certain areas around the district, such as pop-up parks and parklets. The Main Street organization hosts several events each year and utilizes these rockers as a fun way to encourage visitors to "Sit a Spell" and enjoy what their downtown has to offer.

This project enabled Athens Main Street to promote tourism and build a stronger, more united community throughout its downtown district, City of Athens, Ala. and surrounding Limestone County, Ala. Athens serves as the county seat of Limestone County and downtown Athens, with its 1869 Courthouse at the heart and spirit of its community. The rocking chairs serve as an ode to the historical residential districts surrounding the downtown Athens, AL district. Their downtown also borders Athens State University, a historical higher learning institution, which hosts the Tennessee Old Time Fiddlers Convention each October. Front porches are abundant on the homes in these historical districts. 

The funds for this project were raised through an ioby crowdfunding grant, and the organization purchased exterior grade rocking chairs and art supplies. Local students in art classes and their local artist cooperative painted the rocking chairs in themes associated with downtown, events, and festivals. A new parklet was then created and the rocking chairs were placed there. 

In 2017, the National Main Street Center partnered with the national, nonprofit crowdfunding platform ioby to offer matching funds, training, and one-on-one fundraising coaching to Main Street communities in five pilot states who were ready to implement placemaking projects. Crowdfunding on ioby allows project leaders to raise funds, cultivate a local donor base, find volunteers, and build visibility for their project, all with one-on-one support and training from ioby staff.