A Calhoun County work crew was busy planting flowers and picking up litter around the county courthouse Wednesday in preparation for the April 20 event, which draws cyclists from around the world to compete in the Sunny King Criterium. The courthouse, which fronts 11th Street at Gurnee Avenue, sits right on the course, which loops around 11th and 12th streets from Noble Street to Moore Avenue.
Locals also flock to the races and the corresponding Noble Street Festival, which provides family-friendly food and entertainment throughout the day.
“I think that’s important because we’re going to have not only a lot of locals, but people from out of town and out of state coming,” said Mike Poe, president of the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association and director of the weekend’s festivities. “I would hope people would put their best foot forward.”
Poe said the city has been collaborating with the Noble Street Festival committee to plan work in advance of the event.
Bob Dean, Anniston’s director of public works, said preparing for the Noble Street Festival has been a joint effort between his department and the Parks and Recreation Department. The Public Works Department, Dean said, has primarily been “cleaning up roads and making sure everyone sees we have clean streets” in advance of the race. The department has also removed some trees near the courthouse and other areas downtown, he said.
During next weekend’s activities, he said, his department will put up barricades and handle street closures.
Dean said the Parks and Recreation Department will handle the beautification side of things.
Steven Folks, director of Parks and Recreation, said PARD’s maintenance department has been working to spruce up road medians and common areas by trimming hedges, refreshing flower beds and replacing mulch.
Folks said his department is focusing on Noble Street and area parking lots, but will also make sure the routine maintenance on Quintard — which he called the entranceway to the city — is taken care of.
“We do it often, but we want to do a little special kind of care so this event is successful,” he said.
Poe said the beautification going on in advance of the event is important all the time.
“I think the feeling in general is the downtown area is sort of the heart of the community and showing that you’re taking steps to take care of that and beautify that, shows the community is healthy,” he said.
Lewis Downing, manager of Downing’s General Store at Gurnee Avenue and 11th Street, said sprucing up outside his business wasn’t so much for next weekend’s event, but rather to show pride in the downtown.
Downing’s has taken on responsibility for the planter across the street from the store, planting pansies, daffodils and other flowers to brighten up the street.
“We try to show pride in the downtown area and if everyone would do the same, it would be much improved,” Downing said.
“You walk around downtown, and buildings are dilapidated and it just doesn’t look like we have much pride in our downtown,” he added. “Why would other people want to come to an area that people who live and work there don’t show pride in?”
But at least one vacant building will be ready to go next weekend. Spirit of Anniston will be plastering the large front windows of a vacant building on the 1000 block of Noble Street with posters advertising the festival, said Dianna Michaels, the new director of Spirit of Anniston.
Michaels said the organization has encouraged downtown merchants to spruce up and decorate for the event. She said merchants are cleaning windows, revamping displays and stocking up on merchandise in preparation for the flood of potential customers.
“One of the things we’re trying to do with Spirit is to encourage merchants to think outside the box,” Michaels said, including working to add green space and other appealing features outside of storefronts. “I think a lot of times that brings that quaint feeling downtown.”
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.