News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Max Jones

November 28, 2009

MAX JONES: Christmas miracles can still happen

TERRE HAUTE — You don’t have to wander far to find people who remember vividly when downtown Terre Haute was the place to be during the Christmas shopping season. With all the major retailers anchored on or near Wabash Avenue and surrounded by street after street of specialty shops, it was a sight to behold.

Those days vanished several decades ago. The big box stores relocated in shopping malls near interstate highways on the outskirts of American cities.

But it’s just not the same.

Perhaps that’s why small retailers, businesses and other interests in today’s downtowns keep trying to recapture that slice of Americana. A small group of folks in downtown Terre Haute did some brainstorming about that this past year, and they think they’re on to something special. I think they’re right.

Miracle on Seventh Street will be unveiled Friday evening, and it promises to light up downtown Terre Haute in spectacular fashion. What makes this effort to rekindle that holiday spirit is that it seizes on the artistic theme that is beginning to define the district in diverse and colorful ways.

The Arts Corridor — the segment of Seventh Street between Poplar Street and the campus of Indiana State University — is slowly but surely becoming ahaven for professional and aspiring artists. That development, encouraged by downtown leaders, is advancing nicely.

The small group of brainstormers embraced that theme, and the seeds of the Miracle on Seventh Street began to grow. Led by Brian Whisenhunt of Swope Art Gallery, Boo Lloyd of Crossroads Café, longtime Crossroads employee Libby Waters, and businessman Terry Hogan of SmithBarney, the festival began to take shape. Visitors will be in for a treat.

Businesses and galleries along Seventh and Wabash have enthusiastically jumped aboard, as have entities such as the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce.

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