For the past four years, the Eureka Springs Downtown Network has held a party to kick-off the coming tourist season. Billed as a company picnic for local business owners and employees, the event drew close to 200 people last year, raised $4,000, and auctioned off hundreds of dollars of advertising.
This year's event, on Jan. 31 at the Basin Park Hotel ballroom, is going to be even more profitable.
Downtown Network director Jacqueline Wolven will announce two big changes in the network that will affect business owners in the entire city. One will make Eureka Springs' Downtown Network, part of Main Street Arkansas, unlike any other Main Street program in the country.
"We believe in inclusiveness, and working together," Wolven said. "It's about everyone being a part of something."
Through Main Street Arkansas, the network offers free services to business owners, including design consulting, staff training, and budget and cash flow planning. Wolven conducts workshops on using social media and hospitality training for employees that are free and open to all, including businesses in Holiday Island and Berryville .
"You have every opportunity to get the tools you need to have success," Wolvern told business owners at the network's monthly business meeting in January.
New DN initiatives announced at the meeting: creating a welcome packet for business license applicants, forming a welcome committee to visit new businesses in town, and developing a youth team of high school students with entrepreneurial spirit who want to gain work experience. To be announced at the Jan. 31 event: a new parade, bringing the number of parades in Eureka Springs to eight during the extended tourist season, March through December.
Ongoing DN programs include Cocktails for a Cause, a monthly after-hours networking event that benefits local non-profits. Wolven said she is currently signing up organizations for the coming year. DN members have also taken on the revival and maintenance of public garden spaces on North Main.
The 5th annual Eureka Springs Downtown Network Company Picnic is Thursday, Jan. 31, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Basin Park Hotel ballroom. and is cosponsored by the Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce. There is no cost to attend, but attendees are asked to bring a potluck dish. See the Downtown Network's website, www.eurekaspringsdowntown.com for details. A silent auction will include donated advertising. Live auction items are a trip to Jekyll Island, Ga., and a trip to Napa Valley, Calif., both including lodging and airfare.
Eureka Springs Downtown Network is a partner of Main Street Arkansas and the National Trust for Historic Preservation Main Street Center, which supports preservation, beautification and economic development in historic business districts.
"2013 is your year," Wolvern told business owners. "Everyone will be successful."