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Vote For Historic Downtown Stuart In America's Main Street Contest

Stuart and Martin County are no strangers to recognition (most beautiful small town and best place to retire, anyone?), and as it turns out, Stuart's historic downtown district isn't either.

In fact, Thondra Lanese, executive director of Stuart Main Street, has a wall full of Florida Main Street Awards. But now she's looking to add a national honor to her collection—and this one comes with a huge cash prize.

Historic Downtown Stuart is among the nominees in America's Main Street contest, which recognizes the economic benefits of Main Streets and the small businesses that help them thrive. The winner will receive a $25,000 prize to support revitalization.

The all-new competition is being hosted by Independent We Stand, an organization that supports independently owned businesses and encourages people to buy local.

"Study after study shows that supporting small, local businesses isn’t just good for those businesses—it’s good for the community," Lanese said. "Supporting local businesses keeps almost twice as much of the money you spend in the community."

The City of Stuart learned about the contest through Florida Main Street, a program focused on preserving the state's historic retail districts. Stuart's community redevelopment agency administrator, Teresa Lamar-Sorno, encouraged Stuart Main Street to apply.

Lanese thinks that what makes downtown Stuart worthy of recognition is its authenticity.

"You go to lots of places today where they're trying to build communities that feel like a downtown … Stuart is unique. We're already that," she said. "It's authentic. It's genuine. It's evolved over 100 years."

In addition to this "old Florida" charm, Stuart's unique independent businesses, amenities like the RiverWalk, and the ability to dine outside are also appealing, Lanese added.

Now through April 24, everyone can cast their votes online for America's most deserving Main Street. The top 25 quarterfinalists will move on to the next round of voting, which will take place from May 2 to 29. 

Ultimately 10 semifinalists will be rated by a panel of contest judges, with a winner announced in June.

Lanese insists Stuart Main Street won't be counting its chickens before they hatch but said the funds could go toward current programming, such as the free  Rock'n RiverWalk concert series, and launching new options. 

Main Street programming includes the free weekly Rock'n RiverWalk concert series, the Shop Local Shop Smart program, and holiday festivals, such as the annual tree lighting for Christmas and Hobgoblins on Main Street for Halloween.

Soon Stuart Main Street also hopes to create a digital communication system so locals can sign up for news alerts, which the funds would support.

Cast your vote up to once per day here.


(Image via Facebook/Stuart Main Street)