Downtown Hattiesburg Wins Five Awards at Mississippi Main Street Luncheon

Downtown Hattiesburg recently took home five awards at the Mississippi Main Street Association’s annual luncheon — with Andrea Saffle, executive director of the Downtown Hattiesburg Association, being part of four of them.

The awards honor Main Street trustees, board members and volunteers and recognize the most outstanding downtown development and preservation projects and events in Main Street communities in Mississippi.

“We’re so excited,” Saffle said. “We are grateful to have received state recognition for some of the great things we have done here in Hattiesburg.

“But these awards, really, aren’t for us – they’re for the people who are making this happen.”

The rewards are as follows:

  • The Outstanding Community Involvement Effort award recognizes an effort by a local Main Street program that brings together a diverse sector of the community for a common purpose. It was presented at the Coca-Cola Star-Spangled Celebration on the River, an annual event of the Downtown Hattiesburg Association and the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce that features music, fireworks, children’s activities and vendors on either side of the Leaf River at Petal River Park and Chain Park. Saffle accepted the award, along with Valerie Wilson, executive director of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce. Saffle and Wilson are credited as directors.
  • The Outstanding Creative Event award recognizes a quality creative event hosted by a Main Street organization that has demonstrated sustainability and long-term success. It was given at Midnight on Front Street, the annual party and fireworks display in downtown Hattiesburg that celebrates the New Year. More than 4,000 attendees took part in the inaugural celebration in 2018. Mayor Toby Barker accepted the award and Saffle is credited as director.
  • The Outstanding New Event Award recognizes the downtown organization that has created a high quality new event that has generated foot traffic downtown. The award went to Brews & Bites, a food truck and craft beer event designed to showcase local brewers with food truck offerings. The event was launched after the COVID-19 pandemic prevented out-of-town brewers from traveling for the annual Hattiesburg Craft Beer Festival. Marlo Dorsey, who is executive director of Visit Hattiesburg, and Allison Neville accepted the award. Saffle is credited as director.
  • The Outstanding Entrepreneurial Endeavor award recognizes an entrepreneur who has started a new business and/or promoted entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship in the downtown district. The award was presented to Nelson Haskin, owner of Blu Jazz Café, Nellie’s Chicken and Daquiris, Hattiesburgers and Blues and Southbound Bagel.
  • The Charles Beasley Award for Outstanding Main Street Director of the Year is given to a Main Street director who has provided outstanding service to the Main Street community and program. It is named after Charlie Beasley, one of the founding members of the MMSA, and includes a $1,500 scholarship to attend the National Main Street Conference. Saffle won and accepted the award.

“Nelson won the entrepreneur award, Toby accepted the award for Midnight on Front Street because it’s his baby,” Saffle said. “As for Director of the Year, I was totally shocked – I had no idea we were going to win that. “I knew the other four, but I had no idea that one.

“And even this prize does not concern me; it’s the fantastic team of people I have around me, between Visit Hattiesburg… and my board of directors. To be selected as director of the year is amazing and awesome, but I just can’t take all the credit for it, because I have great people. Everyone makes me look good.

As for the future of downtown Hattiesburg, Saffle believes the area will continue its positive momentum.

“When we submitted our entries for these awards, we had so many things that fit all the different categories, and we had to narrow them down because I could only submit six,” she said. “So next year will be just as good.

“We have so many things going on; we have big historic tax credit projects going on, and we have facade renovations, and there are all kinds of other great things going on. Hattiesburg is booming now. I think people really understand that downtown is important, and it’s a cool place to live, and it’s really experiencing a resurgence.

David H. Henry