The Rotary Club of Hanford Sunset gathered this week to hear guest speaker Michelle Brown, executive director of Main Street Hanford.

After conducting brief proceedings, Rissa Stuart, president of the local Sunset Rotaries, introduced Brown.

"It is our mission to support the downtown businesses," Brown said of Main Street Hanford.

One way the organization supports businesses is matching up to 50 percent of the cost for improving building facades. Brown cited an example of one Hanford business that received $15,000 from the Main Street non-profit organization to improve its building's exterior including painting.

The organization also provides U.S. flags to Hanford businesses that wish to display them outside.

Main Street Wonderland

Recently, Main Street Hanford helped the city organize Winter Wonderland, the seasonal ice-skating rink that proved popular among downtown businesses and Central Valley residents.

The idea was conceived by Main Street Hanford and pitched to city officials, Brown told the Rotarians.

"I was thinking, 'Why don't we have a rink in downtown Hanford?'" Brown said.

She informed the Rotarians that "every little, tiny detail was talked about" with Brad Albert, Parks and Community Services director for the city of Hanford.

"It was so interesting to be sitting at the table and hearing all these ideas," prior to setting up the rink, she added.

Main Street Hanford took responsibility for advertising and marketing Winter Wonderland including $45,000 in sponsorship opportunities, Brown reported.

Sponsorship of Winter Wonderland — including business banners placed near the rink — generally ranged from $1,000 to $2,500. However, some smaller businesses were able to advertise for as low as $350, while at least one local business paid $5,000 to support Winter Wonderland.

"It was really exciting for us to use our marketing skills" to promote the event, Brown said. "We ended up getting people here from all over the Valley."

As Winter Wonderland enters its final weekend for the season, Brown noted Main Street Hanford is already making plans to improve upon the experience for the 2022 holidays.

"It is extremely expensive to do this," she said, estimating more than $300,000 was needed to open, promote and operate the 2021 Winter Wonderland.

Brown clarified the city's goal of "breaking even" on expenses was reportedly met, thanks in large measure to the city's Parks and Recreation staff's dedication to making Winter Wonderland successful.

"There was so much creativity involved in making it successful," Brown said, pointing out everything from popular hot chocolate-drink vendors to families enjoying the rink from November 2021 to January 2022. "This has been really incredible."

Bigger, Better, Warmer?

Hanford anticipates the return of an even better Winter Wonderland in 2022, Brown assured local Rotarians who gathered for pizza dinner and a brief business meeting prior to the Main Street executive director's presentation.

Noting the organization also handles the city's popular Farmer's Market, Brown said she's hopeful this year's organic-food market will return to normal — provided health concerns about COVID subside.

She noted that volunteers — not only from Main Street Hanford, but also local residents — help make events like Farmer's Market and Winter Wonderland successful.

"We have the most active volunteers, and we could not do it without them," Brown said. "We cannot be successful as an organization without our volunteers."

Ongoing events like Farmer's Market and Winter Wonderland are profitable to downtown businesses and beneficial to local residents, she said.

After pointing out Hanford's downtown ice-skating rink is entering its final weekend before closing for the season, Brown said city staff and Main Street organizers already are planning for 2022.

To facilitate an even more successful ice-skating rink in 2022, Brown said organizers are listening to feedback from residents and business owners about how to improve it including opening the rink earlier. The goal is to create more downtown foot traffic, which translates into more customers for local businesses.

"It's gonna be a little bittersweet to see it go," she said of Winter Wonderland. "But it will be back again this year. The plan is to have a larger ice rink with [more] heated, covered areas."

Recommended for you

Load comments