By DOMINICK CROSS
Delta Democrat Times
GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) - They came home again. This time for
And now that they're here, they want to do something to bring
back the downtown they remember from their youth.
As individuals, call them driven; as an organization, call them
the Walnut Street Blues Project (WSBP). They're throwing parties to
lure visitors to downtown Greenville.
"We want to have a monthly block party with several bands and
try to raise money for a good cause, such as the American Cancer
Society or the American Heart Association," said WSBP member Nolan
In addition to monthly concerts, Andrews said the WSBP will
"try to have a large annual or biannual event with a national or
Still, there's more to the WSBP fete than to net funds for
charities or bring free, live entertainment to downtown.
"We're trying to do something to get this place going again,"
The "we" Andrews refers to consists of professional men and
women who've returned to Greenville after living away, as well as
downtown business owners and concerned locals who want to see their
town return to its vibrant days.
The nonprofit has also garnered the support of the Greenville
and Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Main
The WSBP consists of Will Ayres, Ken Isben, Stephen Provenza,
Danny Peeples, David Weiss, Frankie Painter, James Shoffner, Doug
Haywood and Parker England.
"We've lost a lot of commercial business and we're trying to
attract commercial business. And one of the first things they're
going to look at is how the downtown is doing," England said.
"Because, whether it be a correct concept or not, everybody says,
'The city thrives as the downtown thrives.'
"And right now, our downtown is a little desolate," he said.
"Empty buildings and everything is the first thing they see when
they come downtown - there's no crowd, there's empty buildings and
broken windows - who'd want to move here with that?"
England said a revitalized downtown should not only bring in
more businesses and people, but it could catch the eye of outside
businesses looking to relocate.
"When they see a little more lively downtown, they may be more
interested in moving here," he said. "They may want to bring jobs
here, build facilities here."
Like a lot of small cities across the country, Greenville
experienced an exodus of its young people.
"Once they go away, they tend not to come back except for
Thanksgiving, family reunions and class reunions and stuff like
that," England said. "In the past five years, we have had
probably 20 to 30 young couples move back home."
England said some of those returnees went to work for a family
business, while others found other forms of employment.
"And with this big influx of younger people, anywhere from 25
to 40, comes a little bit more of an idea that, 'Hey, we've got a
good group here that we can actually do something to help out
Greenville and help businesses and the nightlife itself.'
"So, really, it's just a group of individuals that just have a
burning to make Greenville the way it used to be, the way it was
when we grew up," England said. "People were everywhere,
businesses were everywhere and we had a thriving economy."
"It was once a hopping town and we moved back here to plant our
roots and raise families," he said. "We don't want to live in a
dying city - we'd like to live in a place that actually has
Information from: Delta Democrat Times, http://www.ddtonline.com