2017 7th Annual Rajun’ Cajun Throwdown!


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Welcome back folks…

12728770_10153819669862324_2770551581331593149_nWelcome back folks…   Its story time again with your local neighborhood Main Street Manager.   No, not like Mr. Rogers did it back in the day.   He was a little too overly nice for my liking.  I’m sorta nice, but not anywhere near that nice…   And on top of that his jacket closet was way too organized…   This may seem more like a politician telling you how great things are, when all you can think about is how absolutely terrible things are.  It’s funny how any particular topic, event, or general happening can be both extremely wonderful, or horribly appalling, (at the exact same time) depending on how you view the world around you.    Food stamps, finance reform, environmental topics, the local football team, waste dumps, pop culture, our kids education, gas prices…   Just pick a topic and watch the proverbial tug of war begin.   I’ll even add downtown crosswalks to the list.  They are either a great addition, or an annoying nuisance…  depending on where you are sitting.   You can just forget trying to please everyone.   Ain’t gonna happen…   Such is life in the public realm.    But things evolve, and progress is made whether you are part of the solution or not.

So as some of you might have noticed… downtown is under assault again and looks like a war zone.   Construction has begun on Phase Two of our group’s downtown crosswalks plan.   This will be the end of it for the most part.  I can forsee others being added in the future, but it honestly would be just for looks.   These first two phases will open up accessibility to all in our most heavily traveled areas and should also improve safety for pedestrians in these busy areas.   Thank goodness all of our downtown business owners are amenable to the short-term pain we are dealing out to them and appreciate what we are trying to accomplish.  It will be finished in short order if we stick to our current timeline.   Heck, it may even be finished before a lot of you even read these words.   Some will notice… and some won’t.  Some of you will take a stroll on them and just assume they’ve always been there.   Don’t laugh, it true!   And even though roads will only be closed for 5 days or so I suppose it is inevitable that someone is going to rant on Facebook about how horrible downtown parking is or how inept city planners are…   Nonetheless, it looks like barricades will hopefully come down sometime around the time this wonderful publication hits the newsstands, if the weather cooperates.

Now on to another topic…  unlike the topics above, this is a topic that can ONLY BE CHARACTERIZED AS GOOD NEWS.   There is not a spinmeister on this earth that will ever be able to convince one single soul that this is anything but a good thing.   So without further adieu…    Luling Main Street was again Nationally Recognized for its exploits for 3rd year in a row.   Every fall we submit our 10 Criteria Survey that spells out our every move for the year.   They review all of our actions within each of the 4 Points of the Main Street Approach,  (Organization, Promotion, Design and Economic Revitalization), and then they grade us.   You have to get a 90 on their test to get the nod, and we came in at a 95.5.  I just came back from a MS training conference in New Braunfels last week and only 58 out of 90 Main Street towns walked away with this “certificate of accreditation”.   As is normally the case, only around 60% of the organizations are doing enough in their communities to achieve that level.   And I’m here to tell you…  they don’t just give these things out.   I talked to a couple MS Managers at the training that were within two points of achievement, but didn’t get there.    TWO POINTS!!!   There is no grading curve and the only way to paydirt is to do the work and show sustained progress in the above prescribed areas.   Thankfully I have a group of folks backing me up that make this whole process a lot easier.   Our board of directors assist anyway they can, and they are helping our Main Street group make a difference in this little town of ours.   They are just like all you fine folks.   They are busy with their own lives, their own kids, their spouses, their jobs, their churches, their own problems and somehow find a way to make our meetings, and help us decide the directions to take and make decisions on how to better this community.    They slave away at our events in between, soccer games, Little League practices, school functions, family gatherings, job/business commitments and lord knows what else…   I know that it’s really tough to carve out some extra time from all of the above, but they find a way to do it, and I can’t thank them enough for all they do to help Lulin’ (g silent) be a better place.  I know they won’t care for this too much but I’m going to list them here anyways.   If you see them, – hug them, shake their hand, buy them a drink, and tell them thank you.   Because they darn well deserve it after having to put up with everything I throw on their plates in amongst all the other stuff they are committed to.   Your current Luling Main Street Board is:  Sharolynn Boyd, (Pres), Edel Garza (VP), Lembo Allen (Treas), Rebecca Bohac (Secr), Jennifer Staton, Staci Gutierrez, Samantha Mims, Donna Townsend, & Karen Bell.   Since I’ve had this gig for the last 3 years, there have been several other board members play important roles, and due to term limits and other reasons some have had to step aside.   People like Kelly Allen, Judy Hoffmeister, Shelly Moore, Erin Etheridge, Daniel Rivas, and Luke Pruitt have poured their hearts into this program since I’ve been here, and have played huge parts in getting us back on track after some rough patches.   And several of them are still part of the family helping with our events and functions even though they can no longer serve on the board.   I appreciate them all and they should be proud of what we have accomplished together as an organization.

No amount of spin can change the fact that Luling Main Street is now on a roll…  and we have been for awhile.   We have achieved national accreditation the last 3 years in a row, and for 7 out of the 12 years we’ve been around.   It’s no easy task, but hopefully most of you now know who we are, because our fingerprints are all over some of the improvements you see in the Main Street District.   For someone who absolutely hates to toot his own horn, I am out of breath from being such a blowhard!   I think I’m getting hives now and about to pass out…   But sometimes things just need to be said, and people need to be raised up for their accomplishments…   Amen?

“We have a strategic plan… it’s called doing things…”         Herb Kelleher

“It’s a Main Street Thing…” The Luling Newsboy & Signal [Luling, TX] 18 February 2016: Volume 136, No. 48

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Luling Ranks Among Austin’s Top 10 Suburbs

Our wonderful little town was recently highlighted in an online article among other small towns as #10 for a suburb of Austin.  This article focused both on costs and affordability for home owners looking to live and work in the Austin area.


For the other towns rounding out the Top 10 list click here.

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5th Annual Rajun’ Cajun Throwdown

Eps-v2-06.08.2011Sorry folks…it’s ALL RAJUN’ CAJUN, ALL THE TIME around here…so guess what we are going to talk about today…I should be excited that NASCAR has officially kicked off its season with the running of the “Great American Race”. And I should also be enjoying the fact that the kids have started spring sports and have already started playing baseball games and running in track meets. But I can’t stop thinking about T-shirt designs, crawfish caterers, banner designs, stage and sound companies and event layouts long enough to enjoy golf, softball, and all of the other springtime activities that the kids are involved in.

When you are waking up at 2:45 in the morning and thinking about getting the koozies ordered, and changing the hat design yet again…you know you got it pretty bad. Needless to say we are knee deep in final preparations to make this year’s Rajun’ Cajun Throwdown the best ever, and things are falling right into place.

Now that we’re getting pretty close, this is the time we should be stressing and panicking about everything still on the to-do list, right? In all honesty, I don’t see fear or anxiousness in the eyes of anyone on the committee at this lat juncture. Maybe I’m wrong, but everyone seems to be right in their comfort zone and leisurely just going about their business. We’ve seen areas for improvement and we have made plans to tidy up those areas. I am extremely happy where we are as of today and excited where we are going to end up. Because I know that this group is really engaged in the process of making the Rajun’ Cajun Throwdown something that Luling can be proud of. That’s the way I see it anyway. And I’ve got a pretty good view.

There will be a little something for everyone on the Saturday, March 14th. Dancing, live music, cooking competitions, crawfish to devour, (plus all kinds of other type foods as well), kids games, bouncy houses and face painting for the young-uns. Of course we’ll have a Beverage Garden stocked with all your favorite refreshments, and did I say competition??

I know this event is mainly a cooking competition for prizes and for bragging rights. And the competition for that will be fierce. But some of the biggest competition will be happening on the wiggle racers throughout the day. There will be heat races all day long out in the middle of the street, but that is nothing compared to the Mud Bug 500 Main Event that puts 3-man relay teams against each other in the ultimate test of speed and handling on a figure-eight style racetrack. The Main Event will be a knock down drag out free for all, and I’m sure the hecklers will be out in full force. Isn’t that what friends are for?

Nonetheless, I would like to invite everyone to visit our Rajun’ Cajun Throwdown Facebook page, and we hope you will come check out all the downtown festivities on Saturday, March 14th. Because if you don’t, we won’t be able to do any beautification projects this year. I’m just kidding folks! I promise there are more projects in the chutes. But hey, if a little guilt trippin’ works…so be it! It’s all for a good cause, right?

“We have a strategic plan… it’s called doing things…” Herb Kelleher

-Derek Hall, Luling Main Street Manager

“It’s a Main Street Thing…” The Luling Newsboy & Signal [Luling, TX] 5 March 2015: Volume 135, No. 50
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LMS Receives National Recognition

Well it looks like all of the bragging I’ve been doing about all of our volunteers and all of the things we have been able to accomplish over the last year or so has just been validated. By who you ask? Well, your Luling Main Street Program has just been Nationally Recognized again for the 2nd year in a row… But of course we are just as concerned about being validated by all you fine folks. We are always encouraged by the well wishes and attaboys from people who have noticed some of the changes taking place up and down the Main Street District. We are always open to your ideas and if you have any… your criticism as well. Look, – one thing I’ve learned in my short time in my little LMS bunker is that everyone needs to have a say. If everyone feels like they are being heard and their thoughts and ideas are at least being processed, then people will buy into whatever the end product becomes and will feel like they had a role in it. But if someone feels like their opinion doesn’t matter, they won’t buy in and may even have contempt for the end product regardless of how great a project or idea it was. That’s the way I see it anyways. We all have to be in the boat… and have to be rowing in the same direction so to speak.

Our program set some things into motion this last year that allowed us to rack up enough criteria points to be commended again for 2014. It is not a guarantee that your program will be accredited just because you submitted the required report by the deadline. As part of our participation as a Main Street City in good standing, there is a report we have to submit every year that Texas Main Street grades to see if we’ve achieved success in a wide range specified criteria. Only about 60% of the Main Street programs make the grade every year all around the state so you definitely have to be getting things done in your community. And if you look back on our history since 2003 we have achieved National Recognition status a little bit more than half the time so I guess that stat holds true for us as well. The good thing about this exercise is that not only are we graded on each of 10 criteria, they make recommendations on how to improve in each area. We are graded on these areas:
– Community wide broad based support of the program.
– Our vision and mission statements.
– Our plan of work. Is it sufficient in all of the 4 points of the Main Street Approach?
– Our Preservation Ethic.
– Board & Committee activities
– Adequate Operating Budget
– Manager Skills/Performance. Scored real high on this one… Haha!
– Proper Board Trainings
– Monthly/Qtrly Reporting done on time.
– Membership of the National Main Street Network up to date.

As it does every year, this process allows an independent overview of our program and helps us stay on track. After looking at the Annual Report of Progress we received from them I know we are heading in the right direction. But we do have some areas of improvement that our little group is going to have to look at and we hope to address those in the upcoming months. You can’t just wave a magic wand at it and make it happen. It takes cooperation from all the players in this community to get things done around here and we have to have everyone in the proverbial boat, like I was discussing above. Although we get more “pats on the back” than we get “grievances” from concerned citizens… all feedback plays a part in improving the Main Street District for all. So my door is always open to those who care to wander in…

“We have a strategic plan… it’s called doing things…” Herb Kelleher

-Derek Hall, Luling Main Street Manager

“It’s a Main Street Thing…” The Luling Newsboy & Signal [Luling, TX] 12 February 2015: Volume 135, No. 47

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Snap Fitness Enters Downtown Luling

I know I get a little long winded sometimes, so I am going to try to keep this one short. It will be tough…but we’ll manage somehow. For someone who doesn’t like to talk a whole lot,I seem to have a lot to say in these pages don’t I? Hopefully most of it makes some sense and doesn’t have you all scrambling for a pen to write a letter to the editor getting her all stirred up.  There is really no need to do that because according to this particular person, I am foolish…so I guess there is no need to take me too seriously. In all actuality, she probably isn’t too far off base in some aspects. But luckily, that isn’t always the case.

So with that being said, I will go ahead and get straight to the point so some of you can get back to the more important things in life…like scrolling through your recorded program listings in your DVR to see what to watch next. Or maybe figure out how you are going to spend all the extra cash in your wallets due to gasoline prices being so low.

Luling Main Street has paid out another Facade Grant to yet another entity which has decided to reinvest in this wonderful community of ours. This project took place in a particular downtown building that has always been a burr in my saddle since I’ve been here. Not necessarily for how bad or rundown it was looking, but more because its unique architecture and potential was not being realized. That is until now. I guess Snap Fitness saw the same possibilities for this particular building and decided it needed another lease on life. Although it was probably actually closer to 55 days, it seemed it took about 55 minutes for this building to go up. This project moved at light speed and was really dizzying to watch how fast it all came together. They have really done an amazing job trying to preserve the original architectural features in this downtown building and I know our group is appreciative that they tackled this venture and turned another one of our old decrepit buildings into a viable facility that can be utilized well into the future.

I am highlighting this restoration as an example, just to remind everyone that we still have funds available in our Facade Grant Program to help with expenses if anyone in our district is thinking about fixing up the front of their building. I also want to remind everyone about the free architectural advice that is also available from the Texas Main Street offices in Austin. You get a full report back from their architectural design staff that gives you several artistic renderings of what your building could look like, and takes a look at the many different options available when trying to fix up older buildings. They give you links to sites and articles how to best go about doing things like safely removing paint from brick, proper stripping techniques, and correct processes for restoring different types of materials like plaster, rock, wood, brick etc. This is absolutely one of the best resources that our Luling Main Street Program has access to, and I hope that more of our businesses and building owners in the Luling Main Street District will take advantage of it this year while we still have funds available.

Well what do you know…looks like I followed through with my intent to make this week’s offering a little shorter. Now please don’t start writing letters to our beloved “editor in charge” griping about the Main Street column being too short. She’s got enough to worry about. But referencing our column from a couple weeks ago, it really would be helpful to me if everyone out there would exhibit a little more common sense this week to prove to a certain newspaper editor that it actually can be done and that I am indeed not crazy…or “merely foolish”. I have faith in you all. Well, most of you.

“We have a strategic plan…it’s called doing things.” – Herb Kelleher

-Derek Hall, Luling Main Street Manager

“It’s a Main Street Thing…” The Luling Newsboy & Signal [Luling, TX] 22 January 2015: Volume 135, No. 44
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Building Upgrades and Upcoming Events

Last month was a busy one for Luling Main Street.   We just recently submitted our major Annual Report due to the Texas Main Street office which is graded to see if our program will qualify to be “Nationally Recognized” as a Main Street City in excellent standing.   And in addition, we just submitted all of the Luling-Opoly information to the custom game designers, for a project that will help ensure that we have enough funds to keep our Façade Grant Program strong for the near future.   Those were two big reasons why last month was a hairy one.   And even though we don’t presently have any major beautification projects on that will alter the Luling landscape as we know it in the short term… there is an undercurrent of things going on that will positively impact our ability to do things going forward. Never you fear people… we still have several rousing and meaningful ideas for future streetscapes and other beautification projects that could unfold when the timing is right.   But right now we are currently saving up funds to help ride out the wave of building renovations and restorations that we are now seeing all over the district. Our intention is to surf this wave all the way to end and not do anything to jeopardize us falling off the board, so to speak.   In the public realm it’s very difficult to get momentum going your way, and when you do, you better do everything possible to keep it. We feel it’s important to put our money where our mouth is and get some (if not all) of our historic buildings restored or renovated, because nobody wants to live in a ghost town of dilapidated buildings where the excitement meter in the downtown retail district pegs out at around “zero”.   Our group feels that for the time being, our funds will be best spent facilitating this wave of restorations, and by using our grant program to encourage more business owners and landlords to reinvest in the district, it will make “Main Street” Luling Texas something we can all be proud of.

It’s a process, but it seems we are finally seeing some longtime building owners get a little more engaged in the turnaround that’s happening around here and are now helping us spruce up some of the buildings in our district.   I had one of them say to me that they wanted to get their building fixed up to help us.   Did you catch that?   “To help us”!   It wasn’t to help prospects for their business or to improve the aesthetics of their building… but to “help us”. I thought that was pretty cool honestly.  And another said they didn’t want to be left out and be the only ones left who haven’t done anything. And if these sentiments are any indication of the prevailing attitude out there, then let’s rock and roll! But regardless, as the dominoes start falling, we ALL stand to benefit greatly from the renewed interest I am seeing from businesses wanting to move into the Luling Main Street District. It’s exciting to watch our vacancy rates in the district drop dramatically, and to witness a renewed attitude towards our town from investors who see economic benefits to moving their businesses into our district. A jam-packed downtown district full of unique and specialized businesses will create a vibrant retail corridor that has lots of people milling about, and it will make for an exciting experience for tourists and locals alike. And slowly but surely that is the direction that little ole’ Lulin’ (g silent) is headed.   I know building owners can do with their properties as they wish, but hopefully the “let’s keep values depressed so we don’t have to pay more property taxes” attitude is on its way out of here… and is slowly replaced with an attitude that embraces the increased resale values and increased rents that can be collected when these wonderful historic buildings are restored and leased out to unique and viable businesses.  And when there is less supply and more demand… that is exactly what will happen.   Some of these buildings still need a little TLC, and for those building owners wanting to jump on the band wagon, Luling Main Street is here to help.  Anyone interested in fixing up their building façades can reach us using the contact information below to get details about our Façade Grant Program.

Changing gears here…   It’s hard to believe, but in addition to everything else we have coming up (Yule Trail, Luling-Opoly, History of Luling Book, Cocoa and Carols etc.) it’s also time for us to start working on our Rajun’ Cajun Throwdown again.   The Rajun’ Cajun Committee is due to start back up again this month to start laying groundwork for next year’s event.   Rain or shine, our annual Cajun inspired cooking competition & festival always takes place the 2nd Saturday in March every year.   Believe me, we are due for Mother Nature to even the balance a little and give us a little reprieve in the weather department this year.   I know that I personally can’t do anything about such things, but hopefully she subscribes to the Luling Newsboy, because I’m reserving the right to gripe about the raw deal she’s giving us lately…   Nonetheless, I want invite any of you fine people who may be interested in helping us with the 2015 Rajun’ Cajun Throwdown to come join us.   The Rajun’ Cajun Committee is not an exclusive club and we’ve always strived to add a little new blood to the mix every year to keep ideas fresh and to make whatever adjustments needed to keep this event on the upwards trajectory that it has been on.   So if anyone has been thinking of getting more involved in this community and might want to help us, – let us know.   We welcome you!

“We have a strategic plan… it’s called doing things…” – Herb Kelleher

– Derek Hall, Luling Main Street Manager

“It’s a Main Street Thing…” The Luling Newsboy & Signal [Luling, TX] 16 October 2014: Volume 135, No. 30
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