Believe In Bristol executive director Christina Blevins is running a mile a minute getting ready for one of the many meetings packed into an average week.
"We had our annual board retreat in mid-January," she explains.
"It's a time for all of our committees, volunteers, and anyone who wishes, to come together and give their input for the 2014-2015 year. This year, we had 29 people participate, more than we've ever had at these meetings before!"
The No. 1 priority for 2014-2015 is communication.
"Bristol has two major retail developments going up at Exit 5 (The Falls, Bristol, VA) and Exit 7 (The Pinnacle, Bristol, TN), two of the largest retail developments currently being developed in the U.S. - and they're bookending Downtown Bristol," says Blevins.
"It is estimated that the Bass Pro Shop and Cabela's will bring in over 2 million visitors over the next year and we want to make sure they know that Bristol has a busy downtown with many wonderful shops, restaurants and activities to visit as well."
According to Blevins, since 2006, Downtown Bristol has seen 26 new and sustaining businesses downtown, with plans for several new ones to open over the next few months.
Blevins, her board of directors and the team of hard-working volunteers spent much of the past month preparing for Bristol's Fifth Annual Downtown Showcase, held March 6. The Showcase is one of BIB's most successful fundraisers, offering a taste of Bristol's fine downtown restaurants, beer and wine sampling, fashion shows from several of the Downtown Bristol's sophisticated clothing, shoes and accessories stores, art and, of course, Bristol's trademark, live music.
On Friday, March 21, from 6 to 9 p.m., the Downtown Bristol galleries and arts venues are joining forces to bring Art D'Vine to the local community. The evening art walk offers patrons the chance to gain after-hours access to merchants, sample domestic and international wines, and enjoy a range of works from artists across the region.
As with the previous gallery hops, participants are invited to stroll around Historic Downtown Bristol, stopping at Kil'n Time, Benjamin Walls Gallery, 606 State Street Gallery, blowfish emporium, Pretty Girl Station, KP Duty, One Night Stand Gallery and Hatching Perspective Gallery. The galleries will feature different varieties of wine for sampling. This event is free to the public, though there is a suggested one-time donation of $5 with the proceeds supporting the work of the Arts & Entertainment District of Historic Downtown Bristol, TN/VA.
In April, BIB plans to kicks off "Sunset Shopping Downtown Bristol." Shops and restaurants will remain open until 8 p.m. every Thursday night. Designed to promote the many excellent shops, shopping opportunities, Sculpture Walk and live music venues, as well as introduce several new eateries and retail stores, there will be incentives to join your friends for a fun evening and enjoy the warmer weather and extended daylight.
Following on the heels of Sunset Shopping is the ever-popular summer concert series, Border Bash, every first and third Friday of May, June, July and August. Free children's activities and great music begin at 6 p.m. with live music from 7 until 10 p.m.
Wrapping up the summer and early fall in Downtown Bristol is the highly-anticipated openings of the Birthplace of Country Music Association Museum and the Sessions Hotel, Quaker Steak & Lube, and a new women's clothing boutique. Stay tuned, Blevins advises, as there are many exciting events planned around these new businesses!
Northeast Tennessee residents are not the only group that has noticed the hard work of BIB - the organization recently received the Virginia Main Street Milestone Achievement Award for 1,500 volunteer hours. Congratulations to the staff, board and volunteers!
To learn more about Believe in Bristol, visit http://believeinbristol.org/.