HOPE — Volunteers are working to improve Hope’s appearance as the town approaches its bicentennial in 2016.
Volunteers are planting flowers and trees on the Hope Town Square this month, as well as doing a little painting.
As the bicentennial gets closer, the projects will get bigger and better, Hope Town Manager Melina Fox said.
Residents and businesses are being asked to participate in an Art Quilt initiative in September, Fox said.
All participants will be asked to list their quilts in a registry so visitors to the upcoming Hope Ride and Hope Heritage Days will know where to find them when quilts are on display, she said.
During the first few weeks of September, town residents can expect to see new benches on the square and several new fall decorations, Fox said.
The benches are made from recycled milk cartons. They are being designed and built by Leroy Amstutz, who owns Swiss Maid Country Market on the Hope Town Square.
In the spring, efforts will begin to expand Hope’s historic Yellow Trail, Fox said.
With origins dating to 1915, the Yellow Trail began after Hope auto mechanic Elda Spaugh painted yellow stripes around utility poles from neighboring larger communities leading to Hope as a directional gimmick to bring customers to his business.
But almost a century later, Spaugh’s clever advertising gimmick led to a museum — the Yellow Trail Museum, on the Square — dedicated to preserving and celebrating the many facets of Hope’s heritage.
Fox said that, beginning next year, town leaders will look for funding through many channels to finance larger-scale aesthetic improvements.
To help in that effort, historic preservationists Chuck Baker and Jim Kelly are volunteering to provide expertise about potential improvements to many of the 263 historic buildings in Hope.
The willingness of residents to roll up their sleeves and use their skills to improve the town’s quality of life is a long-standing tradition in Hope, Fox said.
“There is a spirit of people here who want to help,” she said. “That’s why when a lot of small towns went under, this one remains.”
All the short- and long-term ideas have a common theme — they feature ideas and products generated by Hope area residents.
This theme coincides with a strategy Fox introduced after being named town manager in July, to make “grown in Hope” a well-known brand synonymous with high-quality food products.
“It has needed to go in this direction for a long time,” Hope Town Council President Paula Pollitt said. “We just didn’t have anyone to take the helm and run with it until (Fox) came aboard.”
As she has greeted visitors and introduced friends to the town in recent weeks, Fox has occasionally heard Hope described as a “Little Mayberry” — a reference to the fictional North Carolina community that was the setting for two popular American television sitcoms, “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Mayberry R.F.D.”
“Ten years ago, that would have been considered an insult, but today it’s a compliment to describe a small town that gives one a peaceful feeling,” Fox said.
“But as I recall, Mayberry never seemed to change. In contrast, we’ve got a gem here with unlimited potential and residents willing to step forward to improve the quality of our lives in Hope. That’s the big difference.”
Upcoming Hope events
FIFTH ANNUAL ARTS AND ANTIQUES FAIR ON THE SQUARE: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, on the Hope Town Square. Information: townofhope.com
27th ANNUAL HOPE RIDE: 7:30 a.m. Sept. 20 starting at Hauser High School, 9273 N. State Road 9, Hope. Information: hoperide.org
47TH ANNUAL HOPE HERITAGE DAYS: Sept. 26 to 28 on the Hope Town Square. Information: heritageofhope.com
A number of Hope area residents have offered their assistance in both short- and long-term beautification efforts:
Flowers on the Hope Town Square, donated by Linda Cleland
Short-term beautification efforts by Cleland, Diane Burton, Karen Broady, Diane Jekel and Melina Fox
New benches in the square by Leroy Amstutz
Color palette coordination for Art Quilt display, Major’s True Value Hardware
Long-term historic preservation of buildings, Chuck Baker and Jim Kelly