The ever-burgeoning Friends of Portsmouth are moving up in the world or at least taking a big next step into their own headquarters on Second Street, said local attorney Jeremy Burnside, who along with entrepreneur Tim Wolfe, seem to be the primary faces of the grassroots community organization.
The Friends of Portsmouth, to this point in time, are probably best known for the activities of Plant Portsmouth, what Burnside called a sort of subcommittee of the Friends of Portsmouth.
The highly publicized Plant Portsmouth event held Aug. 18 saw a major cleanup of downtown Portsmouth, particularly in the area of Chillicothe and Market streets. The day also saw residents and volunteers set a new world’s record for the largest number of people potting plants at the same time.
“For those of us who live and work here, we aim to plant Portsmouth pride back in our hearts so that it grows,” Burnside said prior to the August event.
Burnside also said he didn’t want any momentum gained from the day to fade away. He talked about plans for what he called a Portsmouth ambassador program, envisioning volunteers wandering downtown and Boneyfiddle picking up trash and generally keeping the place tidy.
Calling from his native Cleveland which he was visiting on a business trip, Burnside said Thursday he now sees the Ambassador Program as being more than a cleanup patrol.
“We found out there was interest in doing something more than that,” Burnside said.
At one point, Wolfe talked about Portsmouth Ambassadors walking around the city’s commercial districts being… ambassadors, that is, answering questions, directing visitors to where they want to go or even making suggestions as to locations folks might want to visit. Burnside said Thursday to make that happen, the Friends of Portsmouth decided they would need a central location for volunteers to meet, plan and train.
Come January, they will have that new location. Being out of town on Thursday, Burnside did not have at his fingertips the exact address of the new Friends of Portsmouth headquarters. He did say it will sit on Second Street sort of catty-corner from the antique store Ghosts in the Attic, in the currently vacant location once identified as the future home of Wolfe’s planned candy store, Sweet Addie Grace, named for his daughter. (Not incidentally, Wolfe recently told the Daily Times he still intends to open the candy store at a different location sometime in the future.)
Burnside said besides being a meeting place for the Friends of Portsmouth, the new headquarters will serve as a stop for persons pursuing outdoor activities in Portsmouth.
For example, Burnside seemed very excited about the idea of renting bicycles, adding Wolfe already has purchased a few prototype rental bikes.
Fishing equipment and similar gear also may be available for rent at the Friends headquarters. It further could cater to the skateboard park being championed by Portsmouth City Councilman Sean Dunne.
Burnside said the Friends of Portsmouth likely will lease the building from Wolfe’s Eflow Development. He was careful to note the headquarters will not be in competition with the Scioto County Welcome Center near the city’s flood walls.
“If anything, this will be something to complement that resource,” Burnside said.
Burnside said currently the Friends of Portsmouth are concentrating on readying downtown and Boneyfiddle for the upcoming Winterfest which launches Dec. 1 and runs throughout the month of December. Once Winterfest is a wrap, Burnside said the Friends “will go full bore” on the headquarters.
Regarding the August Plant Portsmouth event, Burnside admitted the Friends did not accomplish all the cleaning they had hoped to accomplish. They have tried several times since to finish the task, most recently on Oct. 20. Burnside said each time the group has tried to complete the work, the weather simply has not cooperated. He added city workers have stepped in and completed some of the job a bit at a time, specifically noting the city was very helpful in finishing some signage planned by the Friends.
As previously announced, Winterfest – formally dubbed “Toyota Winterfest at Market Square” – will include an ice-skating rink, a live nativity scene and lots and lots and lots of Christmas decorations in downtown and Boneyfiddle.
“We’re going to decorate every block of Second Street,” Wolfe said, speaking to the Daily Times previously. At least five or six churches likely will be involved with that effort. Home of the Christmas Cave, the White Gravel Mines in Minford will take over Market Street decorations.
Wolfe also previously talked about plans to set another world record, this time for the largest number of people simultaneously Christmas caroling. According to Wolfe, the current record is 1,822 set in 2013 in the town of Waukesha, Wisc., in the Milwaukee metro area. Wolfe wants to raise the record to at least 2,000. No date is set for the attempt, which Wolfe said will depend on the availability of judges from the Guinness Book of World Records.
On Thursday, Burnside said he had arranged a telephone conversation with Guinness officials for later that afternoon.
The ice-skating rink is planned for a currently vacant lot on Market Street. Wolfe has said it will reach 35 x 65 feet in diameter. A huge decorated Christmas tree is also in the works.
In addition to the previously announced aspects of Winterfest, Burnside added there will be a Santa’s Workshop exhibit, complete, of course, with visits from St. Nick himself.
Again, during those September comments, Wolfe said any proceeds raised from Winterfest will go towards the purchase of arches planned to cross over Second Street. Prices for the arches sit at $75,000 each and are to be fabricated by a company in Piketon.
Although Wolfe said they will be decorated during future holiday seasons, the arches will not be in place in time for the upcoming 2017 holidays.