Aiming higher: After successful 2017 campaign, nonprofit hopes to continue building



The year 2017 featured new leadership, new events and new ideas for Brownstown/Ewing Main Street.

With those people still involved and others now on board, 2018 is expected to be even bigger and better.

Luke Nolting said his first year as president of the nonprofit organization was a learning experience.

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Fortunately, he had guidance from past board members, current board members and businesses, organizations and individuals in the community to help the events and other projects go off without a hitch.

“We kind of dove in head-first and tried to see what were the most important things that would make the quickest impact, and we went after them,” Nolting said during Brownstown/Ewing Main Street’s annual meeting Jan. 9 at W.R. Ewing.

Board member Megan VanLiew said when the new board came together in early 2017, three goals were mapped out: Farmers market, beautification and branding/marketing. She was a part of the first two.

The town has had a farmers market in the past, but it was restructured with more guidelines, branding and advertising in 2017. It ran from 9 a.m. to noon Fridays from June to September at Heritage Park.

“This year was a success,” VanLiew said. “We had 17 vendors sign up to sell goods. There was a wide variety. We had everything from the obvious vegetables and fruits to nuts, eggs, baked goods, as well as fresh bouquets and a variety of other things. We were happy with the amount of local people who came out to support it.”

VanLiew said the committee recently met to discuss plans for this year and welcomed newcomer Clate Kaiser. The market again will be from 9 a.m. to noon Fridays but run from June to August.

A committee also was established in 2017 to help beautify Brownstown.

Grants from the Community Foundation of Jackson County and Jackson County Visitor Center, donations from the Brownstown Exchange Club, The Peoples Bank and the town of Brownstown and some Brownstown/Ewing Main Street funds allowed for the purchase of 12 sets of 18-inch double hanging flowerpots and brackets and 11 36-inch concrete planters.

Volunteers helped place them in Brownstown and Ewing in July.

VanLiew said Margie Strange with Schneider Nursery also has been instrumental in the project.

“From the planning process to the very end, Margie has been a huge help, and she’s already helping us with this year’s design and color schemes and things like that,” VanLiew said.

Along with adding more flowers this year, VanLiew said banners will be placed on light poles in Brownstown and Ewing, and new benches will be placed in the downtown areas.

“If you have any ideas of ways we can beautify Brownstown — they can be huge, they can be small — we have different options with grants that we’re looking for creative ideas of how we can make our community better,” VanLiew said. “We would really appreciate your input.”

Brownstown/Ewing Main Street events in 2017 also were highlighted.

For the first time in more than 20 years, there was a community Easter egg hunt in April. The courthouse lawn was divided into four quadrants by age group, and more than 70 kids collected eggs and took them to Heritage Park, where they received a toy to take home.

“Like a lot of our events, it was kind of thrown together last minute while we were getting our feet wet, but we had a great turnout,” said Conner Barnette, vice president of Brownstown/Ewing Main Street. “It’s something we plan to continue, and we’re looking to double the crowd size (in 2018).”

The fourth annual Artsfest also was in April. Weather has wreaked havoc on the event over the years, including forcing activities to move indoors in 2016 and 2017.

Darlene Butt, an outgoing Brownstown/Ewing Main Street board member who has helped organize Artsfest since its inception, said several vendors already have signed up for this year.

In October, a free concert featuring Tyler Wessel with Bad Medicine and Forrest Turner was conducted at Heritage Park. Advisory board member Sally Lawson said it was well-received, drawing around 350 people and including a couple of food and beverage vendors.

This year, free monthly concerts are set for April, May and June. There also will be a new event July 3 featuring music and fireworks at Heritage Park.

“We’re looking for input on maybe bands you would like to see, types of music, anything like that. We would be happy to hear it,” Lawson said.

A Halloween costume parade was new to Brownstown. It started behind McDonald’s, traveled down Sugar Street, went through the Jackson County Courthouse and ended at Heritage Park.

Brownstown/Ewing Main Street also partnered with community organizations, businesses and individuals for other monthly events and plans to continue that this year.

The organization also has worked with town and county officials and will continue to do so.

Lawson, who also is president of the Brownstown Town Council, said the town is applying for a grant to buy two vacant lots next to Heritage Park to build a community center.

Part of the building would include the town hall and council meeting space, and the other part would have restroom facilities and a community room for the public to use. An outdoor seating or play area also would be considered.

The town also plans to apply for a grant to make infrastructure and facade improvements to downtown buildings. That would require a local match and business or building owners chipping in.

If Brownstown is successful in landing both of those grants, it would be in position to apply for a Stellar grant in 2020. Lawson said it’s a lot less restrictive and could be used for programming, events, organizations, buildings, trails and other needs in the community.

Drew Markel, an advisory board member who also is a Jackson County commissioner, talked about the Jackson County Judicial Center project that’s underway in town and is expected to be finished in 2019.

All three of the county’s courts will be in the 20,000-square-foot building, and there will be space for a fourth courtroom for traffic court and a few county offices. The building also will be much more secure than the current court buildings, Markel said.

With Jackson Superior Court I moving from Seymour to Brownstown, he said more people will be in town throughout the week.

“We will see an influx of some need for some office spaces, buildings, businesses moving forward, and Brownstown/Ewing Main Street has been excellent in helping us with that and the town council, as well,” Markel said.

“It’s a really good thing for Brownstown,” he said. “This will bring a substantial amount of people here every day. From restaurants to small businesses, I think there’s a lot of benefit to come from this building being built here.”

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Brownstown/Ewing Main Street’s mission is to facilitate the preservation, development and improvement of the downtown areas of Brownstown and Ewing while being mindful of the vision to preserve historic buildings and create appealing green spaces in the downtowns.

The board consists of Luke Nolting, president; Conner Barnette, vice president; Chad VanLiew, treasurer; Tawnya Fleetwood, secretary; Paul Borden; Mitchell McIntyre; Maria Anderson; Megan VanLiew; Brian McIntosh; and Heather VonDielingen.

The advisory board members are Sally Lawson, Drew Markel, Arann Banks, Joe Reynolds, Darlene Butt and Missy Bane.

For information or to volunteer to help with future projects, contact Nolting at 812-968-9021 or send a message via


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