Small towns receive big honor in 2010

Local residents believe in Auburn and love it, but now the rest of Alabama has a chance to as well.

Gov. Bob Riley has declared 2010 "The Year of Small Towns and Downtowns."

The celebration for Auburn was held Jan. 29 at Toomer's Corner.

"Basically it's a big Alabama homecoming," said Carl Morgan, assistant planning director of the Auburn Planning Department.

Morgan is also on the steering committee for the City of Auburn Historic Preservation Commission. "This is part of the tourism department's 'Year of 'campaigns that they do," Morgan said.

Morgan said each year since 1994, the Alabama Tourism Department has declared various "Year of" campaigns. For example, 2009 was the "Year of Alabama History."

Ingrid Brown, owner of and The Villager, said she was excited that the state is highlighting small towns and downtowns.

"We're going to do our part," Brown said. "Last year we made fliers going into customers' bags."

Brown said the fliers were passed out to raise awareness about how it is beneficial to a community when residents shop locally.

In addition to helping encourage local business, the state is providing each participating town with a historical marker.

"We're looking right now in the vicinity of Toomer's Corner," Morgan said.

Morgan said the language of the historical marker was drafted by Ralph Draughon Jr.,

"I think it'll bring a lot of focus and a lot of interest particularly on downtown and a heightened sense of pride in downtown," Ham said.

Ham said Auburn City Council has a variety of events coming up to celebrate throughout the year.

The homecoming celebration of "The Year of Small Towns and Downtowns" will coincide with Auburn University's homecoming.

There will also be readings and storytelling by long-time residents of Auburn about downtown, how they remember it and how it has changed.

The Big Read, which kicked off Feb. 1 at the Student Union, and Read Across America will focus on historical readings.

Read Across America will also center on the Alabama Reading Initiative.

In the summer, walking tours of the city will be held.

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