Elizabethton is becoming a place of community of art

Published 2:32 pm Tuesday, April 27, 2021

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Catch a concert at the Bonnie Kate or take in a Saturday night concert at the Covered Bridge Park. Or, how about First Friday in downtown Elizabethton, where there is music, arts, other activities, good food, and some trendy shops to visit.
In recent years, Elizabethton has had its ups and downs. But, now it appears that city government, local merchants, and community residents have agreed on a plan that has come together that is remaking the downtown into a fun and inviting place to visit and shop.
Our downtown plays an important and unique role in economic and social development. It in some ways defines who we are. It facilitates business, learning, and culture. Elizabethton’s downtown offers a rare insight into the city’s past, present and future. Its authentic cultural offerings such as the Bonnie Kate Theater, the Covered Bridge, and the Tweetsie Trail enhance its character, heritage, and beauty, and create a unique sense of place not easily replicated elsewhere.
Downtown was once the action place, the place where “the lights were brighter, where people went to spend their money and forget their worries.” But in the second half of the twentieth century, “downtown” became a shadow of its former self, succumbing to economic competition such as malls and big box stores. In recent years, downtowns have tried re-inventing themselves.
A healthy downtown is the key to a strong community, and in recent years, downtown Elizabethton has struggled to remake itself and to get back on solid footing after so many of its businesses, such as Kress, Woolworth, Watson’s, Belk’s and JC Penney closed. There was little left except for furniture stores, restaurants, banks, and drug stores. Then came the era of antique stores. Downtown has had to re-invent itself and it is still a work in progress. The secret: Taking who you are and what you have and building on it. And, we feel the best is yet co come.
We have a lot of things to build on and expand — our natural beauty and outdoor recreation, a historic downtown, and arts. For instance, what other town has a river flowing through it, a Covered Bridge? Both can be used to enlarge new opportunities for the town, such as the concerts each Saturday evening during the spring, summer, and fall in the Covered Bridge Park. A serious look is being given to a rafting park. We have a state park on the outskirts of town, which we can utilize.
We have biking and hiking opportunities, and the Bonnie Kate is quickly becoming a cultural arts center for the downtown. Not to mention the variety of shops in the downtown. Our assets are many. Downtown Elizabethton has a lot going for it, and together we can make it into the activity center of Northeast Tennessee — the place to be!

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