Lee’s Summit won two downtown revitalization awards during the Evening of Excellence dinner and awards ceremony on July 25, at the Missouri Main Street Revitalization Conference in Kansas City. Mayor Randy Rhoads won Outstanding Public Official for his ongoing support of Lee’s Summit’s downtown revitalization, and “Cellular Cenes” won Top Special Event for attracting new visitors to downtown with an emphasis on the arts and downtown as the centerpiece of the community.
The event capped three days of more than 40 educational workshops and in-the-field educational sessions, sponsored by Missouri Main Street Connection. The conference culminated with the Evening of Excellence and awards recognizing achievements in downtown revitalization were presented in 18 categories. Competition for the awards came from all across the state of Missouri. Lee’s Summit also had semi-finalists in three other categories: Dave Eames for Volunteer of the Year; The Stanley Historic Event Space for Business Excellence; and the Cultural Arts Bond Project for Outstanding Special Project.
Rhoads often brags about the city of Lee’s Summit and mentions his pride in downtown Lee’s Summit and the revitalization efforts of Main Street. He can be seen attending events in downtown year-round, whether he’s helping flip the switch during the Mayor’s Tree Lighting ceremony, passing out candy bars at the Chocolate Crawl, riding in the Emerald Isle Parade, talking with children at the Downtown Bunny Hop or supporting Fourth Fridays and the cultural arts.
Last year, Rhoads volunteered to be part of a Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street Fundraising Advisory Board to help brainstorm ideas for the organization’s sustainability. His contributions were valued and many are being implemented as part of a three-month task force plan. He is always engaged and always at the table when he is asked to help with Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street efforts.
“I’m honored, obviously,” Rhoads said in an interview. “But I’ll tell you what, the analogy I use is a football team winning a championship... everyone is cheered down to the water boy. I feel like the water boy being recognized for the work being done, those folks did all the heavy lifting.”
“Cellular Cenes,” a play written specifically for Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street by Ben Martin, is a truly unique theater experience, acted out on the streets and inside businesses in downtown Lee’s Summit. It is a short romance told in five scenes, but it’s much more than that. During the one-hour play, the audience literally follows the story of two young people and their quirky budding relationship. Each scene is set at a different downtown location. The audience keeps their cell phones on, and at the end of each scene, they receive a text message telling them where to go next to see the next episode.
Martin worked with the downtown merchants whose businesses would serve as the settings for the play. After casting two actors and serving as the director, Cellular Cenes hit the streets on Fourth Friday in August 2012. Several other performances were added throughout the year.
The street performances are part of a cultural arts initiative launched by the new Main Street Cultural Arts Committee, an arm of DLSMS. The goal is to promote the arts and culture in downtown Lee’s Summit, as well as engage residents and visitors in the cultural arts experience and to create arts-related activities within each downtown event to draw new visitors and residents in the downtown area.
“Missouri Main Street Connection congratulates Lee’s Summit, which nearly 10 years ago embraced the opportunity for training and mentoring from Missouri Main Street, and is now enjoying the success of their revitalization plan,” said Gayla Roten, state director of Missouri Main Street Connection.
MMSC has worked with DLSMS to help the program expand its goals and qualify for accreditation from the National Main Street Center. “The dedicated leaders and many volunteers who are contributing to the success of the Lee’s Summit revitalization effort can be proud of their efforts, which have resulted in measureable achievements in all four points of the Main Street Approach to revitalization,” Roten added.
DLSMS is dedicated to the revitalization and historic preservation of Downtown Lee’s Summit, and is accredited as a Main Street program through the National Main Street Center and Missouri Main Street Connection. DLSMS won the Great American Main Street Award in 2010, an achievement that only five communities each year are awarded. The dedicated staff of Trisha Drape, Sarah Shore and Stacy Needels say they attribute much of the organization’s success to the many engaged volunteers and several collaborations with city and business leaders.