Saturday, June 3, 2017

Revitalizing a Small Downtown

A small city sometimes needs a boost to maintain its downtown business district. In the “Upstate” area of South Carolina, the city of Woodruff is striving to maintain a healthy local economy. Because it’s in the shadows of the larger cities of Spartanburg and Greenville, Woodruff’s leaders look for new ways to attract customers to its businesses.

Cooking teams begin to set up in the park behind the former high school building.
Since 2015, each spring the city has conducted a barbecue cookoff known as Piggin’ in the Park to bring visitors – cooking teams, judges, family friends, and others – to the downtown area. Organized by Alyson Leslie, Woodruff’s community and economic development director, the event is one of several new city programs to help support local business owners.

McKinney Park is almost filled by cooking teams, vendors, and festival activities.

Sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, the cookoff has continued to grow each year. This year the number of cooking teams more than doubled to 44 from the 20 that competed last year. Organizers hope the event grows eventually to 55 teams, the size that McKinney Park, where the event is held, can accommodate.

Smoking Butt Heads placed in the top 10 in the ribs category.

Only a block from Main Street that bisects the business district, the park is the perfect venue for a festival and has ample space for cooking teams, children activities, food vendors, entertainment, and other activities. It was created recently out of the athletic fields of the city’s adjacent historic high school, built in 1925 and on the National Register of Historic Places, that now serves as City Hall.

Judges check in before the competition begins.

Piggin’ in the Park is one of six events of the Palmetto BBQ Series in South Carolina that offers additional prizes and results in crowning a state champion -- the team with the highest score in four of six events. Although several teams competing in the cookoff were from out of state, many were from South Carolina with the goal of gaining points to win the state championship.

New owners are moving into vacant buildings, such as this one that once was a service station and later a florist.

Leslie estimates that at least 16,000 cars come daily through the city on Main Street. Because Woodruff’s population is just slightly over 4,000, that’s a lot of potential customers for the city’s businesses. With events like Piggin’ in the Park bringing visitors into the area, the city – whose motto is “Where Time Is Well Spent” – should continue to be successful in revitalizing its downtown.

Business owners on Main Street in Woodruff are renovating and recruiting new business.

Theo's Snack Shack, which sells snow cones on Main Street, hopes for more visitors to Woodruff.

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