From: Mary Martha Dust
Fountain City, Wis.
Dear Editor, Community at Large, University of Minnesota team, and Mayor Mark Peterson:
Follow the plan I lay out for you here, and business owners will smile again in downtown Winona. My inspiration for this plan is based on living and working in Ashland, Oregon, for 30 years of my adult life. I owned a bakery there, and was an integral part of the business community. Their downtown is bustling, alive, and well, thriving, growing, and teeming with locals and tourists every single day and night. Why? Because their Shakespeare Festival (which Winona has mirrored) is essential to the downtown businesses. They have five theatres now; however the first, and most lovely, is the outdoor Elizabethan theatre. It is an open-roofed theatre, surrounded by the classic medieval stone wall, complete with high flying flags. It is located only a half block off the downtown boulevard. Restaurants (at last review, well over 80, for a population of several thousand less than Winona) serve thousands of tourists who come into town for a play. Every tourist has to eat (and shop!, and stay overnight!) and so the downtown restaurants are full to the brim on every play night (6 out of 7 nights) serving meals before the play begins (8 p.m.) After the play, nightclubs, or quiet bars provide space for after-theater repartee and repast. The downtown restaurants completely supported my wholesale bakery business for 13 years.
Take some of your computer time and look up the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Be sure to view the outdoor theatre space as well as view the downtown area. You will be amazed. Theatre can change a community and especially its downtown area IF the theatre is built walking steps away from the downtown. The downtown area will not just come alive...it will THRIVE. We have the capacity to bring tourists from all over the world with this idea, tourists will come back year after year as the Festival grows and continues to add weeks, and eventually, month after month of plays.
It is a mutually beneficial, optimal arrangement. It WILL work here, but the visionaries must agree that Levee Park is the PERFECT place for an outdoor/indoor Elizabethan theatre! I will be on the committee. I will be one of the first ones to lease a downtown space and put in an amazing place to eat. Build for Shakespeare in the Park!