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Show some love to the square

Published: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 10:47 a.m. CDT

The square is the heart of Newton. It’s a place where memories are recalled and new ones are made. Friday’s Thunder Nites in Newton was a shining example of that.

Everyone loves the square.  How could you not? If you want to get a great photo-op you can go to the square.

Need a new book? The square has four businesses that sell books, five if you count books that you find at Pappy’s Antique Mall.

If you’re a caffeine addict like me (I recently received my free beverage reward from Uncle Nancy’s punch card program), there are two coffee shops and Larry Thompson at Worth the Weight keeps a few unique flavors in addition to the freshly baked cookies and frozen yogurt.

I could write and talk all day about all of the shops and businesses that are on the square, but that is not the focal point of my column this week. My point is that we need to do more to get our square nationally recognized.

Since 2007, the Newton Historic Preservation Committee has been trying to get the downtown business district placed on the National Register List. They have made a lot of progress in 2013, but we as a community need to help support them.

Being placed on this list does nothing but good things for the town. For the business owners and perspective business owners, they would get tax credits and increased exposure.

The best part is that being on the list still allows them to do whatever they wish with their property.

We should all want this for the town. There isn’t a single Newtonian who hasn’t experienced something magical on this square or have memories of it in some way.

Helen Grosvenor, who turned 100 in May, drew me a map of the square as she remembered it growing up.

Think about this. A woman, who has lived for a century, drew a map with nothing but her memory as a guide of our square.  

The square has that kind of impact on people. When she and I spoke, I could visualize the old theatres and Gottner’s dress shop. She spoke of these places with a distinct and unbridled passion. I was sucked in.

After all, in addition to being a regular nerd, I’m also a history nerd.

The NHP committee has big plans for the district. They also want to garner a Main Street Iowa designation. That program is designed to assist selected Iowa communities in promoting their historical districts and attracting more business and tourism.

Iowa Speedway has done a great job of luring tourists in, but let’s give them something else to look at between races.  I fell in love with the square during my first visit in December and I know that this program can help other people do the same.

I’ve heard how many shops there used to be on the square and that’s nice, but let’s go out and support the ones that we have know and help them prosper. When the committee gets close to brining in the big wigs to look at our square, let’s give them something to look at, a thriving downtown full of local support.

I spent this entire weekend having a blast right here in Newton and a lot of it took place right on the square. Karaoke on Thursday, I covered and enjoyed Thunder Nites on Firday and later the Izzy Dunfore show at The First Avenue Speakeasy and finally, some more Scoreboard action on Saturday.

The NHP committee has said the best way to support the movement is to go out and utilize the square for all it has to offer.

I personally have been doing that and I think others should too. We can either continue being the town that people say, “Oh Maytag left, poor us,” or we can be the town that bounces back with our speedway and an amazing downtown.

I’d rather be the latter.

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