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Let’s celebrate small towns and downtowns

Every town has something special about it. For some, it’s that unique restaurant of which only a particular place can boast. For others, it’s a deep-rooted tradition locals call their own.

But for all, it’s a city’s downtown.

A downtown area is not always the most glorified part of a city. It’s not usually the place people see first, but it’s almost always that city’s heart.

That holds particularly true in Pike County, where Troy and Brundidge have thriving downtown communities steeped in history.

For Brundidge, its “heart” lines Main Street, with antiques stores, unique restaurants and a downtown’s signature local pharmacy and hardware stores.

It has its city hall and library in antebellum houses that have been restored through the years and a theater that’s home to the state’s award-winning “Come Home It’s Suppertime” performance.

In Troy, the square has its share of special businesses, such as Douglas Bros. Jewelry and Byrd Drug that have called downtown home for years. And there are those newer to the area such as Rena’s Boutique and Linda’s Health Foods.

There’s something special about these parts of our community, and that won’t go without recognition this year.

On Tuesday Gov. Bob Riley kicked off a celebration of these special parts of our communities with the 2010 “Year of Small Towns and Downtowns” promotion.

The state’s tourism department chooses to highlight a feature of Alabama each year, and this year, it chose especially wisely.

Not only should the state’s downtowns be recognized, but those often small towns that surround and nurture the downtowns are special, as well. After all, Pike County’s size is part of what makes it such a great place to be.

I say this as someone from the small town of Fairhope, a community known nationally for its historic, beautiful downtown region. I come from that town where everyone knows everybody and even the occasional stranger is welcome, regardless.

I came from that small town to this one, and really, they aren’t too different. While Troy doesn’t have the size of the Fairhope downtown or a bay or fresh seafood, it has the caliber of people just the same.

Where else would someone after two years in the city not be able to go even to the grocery store without seeing a familiar face? It wouldn’t happen in the big cities, and that in itself is worth celebrating.

As the campaign kicks off, it reminds me of the uniqueness of the small county in which I live. It further calls me to take a look at the great city of Troy that I’m privileged to call home. And, it makes me appreciate the place I live in the city’s downtown, the place that holds my heart, too.

Holli Keaton is news editor of The Messenger. She can be reached via email at holli.keaton@troymessenger.com.