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Year In Review -2021

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | December 30, 2021
2021 Year

The 2021 year started with some promise. Vaccines were coming on the market; restrictions meant to help our health care systems were starting to loosen up in the spring; and some activities resumed with some extra help through a variety of governmental assistance programs. We didn’t improve as much as we wanted to, and some new challenges emerged (particularly in the realm of workforce).
Emporia Main Street responded with some new tools to improve vaccination rates with our partners in the Greater Emporia Area Disaster Relief Fund, support job placement with member businesses through the Jobs Board, and push for housing development through the Upper Story RHID program and formation of local investment groups. It is important to talk about the things that went right in 2021, and the things we did organizationally to mitigate problems.
The list below isn’t all encompassing (we hold monthly meetings of the Board of Directors (twice a month), Design Team, Business Enhancement, and Promotions Team), and participate in a variety of other community building activities that won’t show up on the list below. However, we understand that it is important to communicate what we are doing for you to put our region in a better position for years to come.

Emporia Main Street provided loans to A-1 Pump and Jet, Fork and Spoon (715 Commercial Street redevelopment), American Family Insurance Callie Medrano, Toso Family Eye Care, Haba Ventures (The Station), Vault Meats and Cheeses, Shedd Family (616 Commercial Street redevelopment), and TCR LLC.

We had new members opening downtown in Mi Chavelita, Cookies Leather & Apparel, The Station, Union Street Social, and others.

We are still calculating 2021 economic impacts, but we sold over $80,000 in Gift Certificates.


  • Center on Rural Innovation meetings 
  • HEAL Grant Applications 
  • Gift Certificates for Teachers 
  • Healthcare Heroes 
  • Kansas Arts Commission collaboration
  • EHS class reunion planning
  • Slip Cover removal at Designs by Sharon 
  • Freedom Fest donation to the All Veterans Memorial 
  • Blessing Box repositioning 
  • Start Your Own Business Class Graduation 
  • Moonlight Madness 
  • Purchased the remaining portion of DMS Productions 
  • Planning for the 2022 Unbound Gravel event and the Dynamic Discs Open 
  • Quarter Mania 
  • Soldier Care Packages sent 
  • New Fab Lab Manager position made available


  • Small Business Saturday Proclamation 
  • Kress Center ornaments 
  • Elf Hunt & Small Business Saturday
  • Veterans Banner cleaning/storage 
  • Soldier Care Packages item collection 
  • Distributed flags and Beyond the Banners books at the Veterans Day parade
  • Freedom Fest, including the first Murph Challenge and reenactment 
  • Downtown lamp post lighting 
  • Greater Emporia Area Disaster Relief youth vaccination clinic assistance 
  • New Emporia Merchandise 
  • Little Place Tax Service rehabilitation project phase one complete 
  • GEADRF Ice cream socials for healthcare workers and first responders 
  • Costume voting contest for Halloween 
  • 727 Coffee Granada Coffee Company Collaboration 
  • Business Incubator opens for application 
  • Announced a collaborative effort for area high school reunion planning 
  • Citizens National Bank Building project by the Haag family wins a 2021 Award of Merit through the Kansas Preservation Alliance


  • Downtown Trick or Treat & Costume Contest
  • Ofrenda window for families impacted by Covid 
  • Ofrenda community window decorating contest (the Emporia Public Library took first place!) 
  • Assisted HOTT with Day of the Dead parade and event activities 
  • Downtown Cleanups 
  • Kansas Main Street statewide media story 
  • CORI community assessments 
  • Trox completes their incubation, and moves with Gravel City Roasters to 715 Commercial 
  • Started hosting Start Your Own Business Class sessions 
  • City of Emporia authorizes first Upper Story Rural Housing Incentive District project in the state at 714, 716, 718 Commercial Street 
  • Rural Rise announces spring 2022 Emporia conference 
  • Veterans Banners hung downtown 
  • Assisted with a KANSAS Magazine article for Emporia Day of the Dead activities through HOTT 
  • Quilt Block project 
  • Fall Quarter Mania 
  • Grand Opening of The Station 
  • Merchant to Merchant meeting 
  • Greater Emporia Disaster Relief Fund recognizes local school nurses and their staff 


  • Local social organizations presentations 
  • Board of Directors retreat 
  • Worked with Radius Brewing, Twin Rivers Winery, and Trolley House Distillery for the local “Taste” gift certificate packages
  • Great American Market 
  • Worked with TC2 to secure a cooperative investment structure 
  • Commercial Street Resurfacing project 
  • No Coast Film- basic assistance 
  • Garden voting 
  • Greater Emporia Area Disaster Relief vaccine grand prize drawings 
  • Sidewalk replacement/expansion 
  • Kudos Board launch for healthcare workers 


  • Welcome Back Block Party 
  • Hosted a downtown vaccine clinic with Lyon County Public Health
  • Kansas Main Street housing training 
  • Downtown clean ups 
  • Downtown flooding cleanups 
  • Cancellation of The Taste is announced due to a Covid spike 
  • #Vax to Normal campaign and drawings 
  • Local promotional video 


  • 30th Anniversary- 
  • Volunteer of the Year- Mary Kretsinger 
  • Advocate of the Year- Erren Harter 
  • Business of the Year- Newman Regional Health 
  • Steve Hanshu Excellence in Design: Paula Sauder 
  • J. Warren Brinkman Award: Skin Studio, and Mark & Angie Schreiber 
  • Cornerstone Award- Mark McAnarney 
  • Moonlight Madness 
  • Upper Story RHID Legislation becomes active at the state level 
  • Emporia Main Street named “Best Non-Profit Group” by the Emporia Gazette readers 
  • Launched the JOBS Board to aid member businesses looking for employees 
  • Aided Dynamic Discs and the PDGA in hosing Junior Worlds with the carnival and block party 
  • Chosen to represent Main Street America as one of their featured “Instagram takeover” communities 
  • The Greater Emporia Area Disaster Relief Fund aided in drive through vaccination clinics 
  • Assisted other local volunteers with the community fireworks setup 


  • Membership Drive 
  • Adopt a Garden voting 
  • Electric scooters are distributed in the community 
  • Vax to Normal drawings 
  • Quarter Mania 
  • Downtown cleanups 
  • Unbound Gravel Finish Line Party and event support 
  • Network Kansas regional conference 
  • Downtown chalking event 
  • Sponsored an Americorp group for City Park work and assistance with Unbound Gravel 


  • Garden adoption voting 
  • Emporia Main Street designated as an accredited Main Street program for 2021 
  • White Ribbon week for local health care workers 
  • Hosted new Kansas Main Street communities 
  • Flatland Cruisers Car Show held downtown 
  • Judged the “Vacant Lot” competition for EHS FBLA 
  • Greater Emporia Area Disaster Relief Fund receives award from the United Way of the Flint Hills 
  • Teacher Appreciation Week gift certificate distribution 
  • Drop off location for Angels Care Home Health fan drive
  • Mothers Day promotions 
  • Provided some infrastructure support for La Grind 
  • Hosted A LOT of Unbound Gravel planning meetings 
  • Promoted Emporia’s first Coworking Space (Hereford Coworking Space) 
  • Downtown clean ups 


  • Dynamic Discs Open Block Party and event assistance 
  • Downtown chalking events 
  • Several downtown cleanups 
  • Interactive mural voting 
  • Launched Adopt a Garden for 2021 
  • Launched Emporia Area Playing Cards with the Lyon County History Center and area sponsors 
  • Worked with local businesses to produce a Rural Rise video 
  • Attended (virtually) the National Main Street Conference 
  • One of five communities in the United States presented with a Main Street Forward award 
  • Distributed our seventh (and final) community perception survey for consumer responses to business pandemic protocols 
  • Interactive mural placed at Dynamic Discs
  • Co-presented with the Brookings Institute, Laramie Wyoming, and Wheeling West Virginia on rural revitalization best practices 
  • Participated in the Flint Hills Technical College Presidential Search 
  • Promoted the Shuttered Venue Grant, and assisted local entities with application 
  • Easter Egg Hunt shopping event 


  • Promoted the local lunch challenge 
  • Attended Kansas Main Street quarterly training 
  • Conducted presidential tours with FHTC candidates 
  • Participated in a Kansas Housing Assessment study 
  • Downtown cleanups 
  • Request for artists to produce new interactive mural designs 
  • Promoted several new federal stimulus programs 
  • Hosted a Board Retreat 
  • Held several interdepartmental meetings to determine safety protocols for events 
  • Promoted new Kansas Main Street incentives 


  • Worked with local businesses on disaster recovery after an extended severe cold snap 
  • Started planning for spring health guidelines for activities 
  • Pushed Valentines promotions 
  • Conducted the final mask drop off to local healthcare institutions 
  • Presented a virtual session for National Main Street 
  • Attempted to mentally recover from our Chiefs getting crushed in the Super Bowl after running a series of small business “Big Game” promotions 
  • Participated in a USD 253 focus group activity 
  • Assisted at vaccination clinics 
  • Assisted in Black History Month activities 


  • Hosted a Mural Crawl 
  • Conducted downtown cleanups (for some reason it was warmer in January? 
  • Took down Christmas Lights 
  • KSNT Mural Story 
  • A downtown billboard came down to facilitate future development 
  • Celebrated the grand opening of Mi Chavelita 
  • Promoted a series of new financial support incentives for businesses 
  • Sent Healthcare Heroes items to Newman Regional Health 
  • Promoted the “Main Street is” campaign 

About the Author

Casey Woods, Executive Director

Before accepting the director position in March of 2009, Casey worked in both retail and agricultural jobs in the family businesses. A lifelong resident of the Emporia Area, Casey was a ten year volunteer for Emporia Main Street prior to his appointment as director. During that time he served as the board president and chair of the Economic Vitality Committee.

Casey also serves as a partner in PlaceMakers, LLC, a consulting firm that routinely works with both large and small communities, and their businesses, to promote sustainable economic growth through community and economic development practices. Casey consults with businesses, organizations and communities to understand their market capacity and fill vacant spaces. He has been involved in two projects that included crowdfunding as a part of their overall business funding strategies, Radius Brewing and Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe.