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(Enlarge) Ivy Wells, Sykesville’s new Main Street manager and director of tourism, is shown at South Branch Park. She hopes the park will become part of an overall strategy to bring more people to Sykesville’s downtown area. (Staff photo by Sarah Nix)

Name: Ivy Wells

Title: Sykesville Main Street manager/director of tourism.
Hometown: Laurel (Sykesville resident since 1995).
Occupations: Assistant to CEO of Starleigh Entertainment in Baltimore, works in circulation department for The Gazette.
Contact: Call the Town House at 410-795-8959 or e-mail ivy@sykesville.net

Sykesville hired town resident Ivy Wells to be the town's Main Street manager and director of tourism on a three-year contract term. The Eagle caught up with Wells to discuss her role and her vision for downtown.

Charles Schelle, The Eagle: Congratulations on your new job. How does it make you feel getting this role?
Ivy Wells: Proud. Privileged. Inspired and hopeful.

Eagle: Why’s that?
IW: Because I see potential in what we have to work with in the town of Sykesville. And in talking with my neighbors and friends and staff, what we can accomplish here is extraordinary.

Eagle: Describe what is your role and what your position entails.
IW: What I hope to do and what my position entails is to put Sykesville back on the map, and to bring all the various committees together for the entire good of the town.
Right now we have the Sykesville Business Association working over here and we have several various committees. We have Sykesville’s Parks and Events Committee here and have the Economic Development Committee and each has its goals, but the one main goal is to bring people and business to the town of Sykesville, and there wasn’t a point-person to kind of combine the efforts of all of the groups for the good of the town.

Eagle: What first got you motivated to be involved in the town? And how have you been involved in the past?
IW: Well, music has always been in my background. I always wanted to bring music to the masses.
It started in college and now it continues.
When I first moved here there was this little concert series [Concerts in the Park], and I was managing a group of bands and I got one of my bands involved in the concert series. I noticed that it had great potential, the concert series.
Laura [Lindberg, former town treasurer] who was doing it before stepped down and I stepped in. [Town Councilwoman] Jeannie Nichols asked me to take over the concert series about 10 years ago. With the background I have in music, I know what to look for, I know what attracts people and with my marketing background, I kind of built the concert series up.
It’s fulfilling for me to bring music to people. Music brings me such joy, and I want to bring that to everyone else.

Eagle: What other past experiences do you have in coordinating events?
IW: I was in a sorority in college and one of my jobs in the sorority was planning Greek events.
I was extremely fortunate enough to get an internship with what’s called SEE Productions at University of Maryland College Park. SEE Productions is Student Entertainment Enterprises.
I was a journalism major; I thought I was going to be a reporter and after doing this internship, it changed my entire direction.
The internship was learning all the aspects of booking, marketing and promoting live events for the University of Maryland.  
I was involved with the great drug debate with Abbie Hoffman and Timothy Leary and Curtis Lewa and [Tom] Barringer, I think his name was.
We organized a drug debate about the pros and cons of marijuana.
We did an evening with “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” author Hunter S. Thompson and brought Spyro Gyra into University of Maryland.
That whole business, booking the acts and the writers and figuring out an ad design, where to market the event, ticket sales, what to charge for the event – everything involved in that, I knew it was going to be my passion.

Eagle: What ideas do you have for new events and how to make existing events more successful?
IW: My No. 1 goal is the existing events, making them more successful.
The Fall Festival is successful all on its own, but it could be better. There could be more vendors; there could be more entertainment. It could be more of a destination.
I’m planning on working with Craig [Taylor, SBA president] on that and Bill McGinnis, the chairperson for the Fall Festival.
Obviously the concert series – bringing in higher quality acts and generating more income to bring in more acts like eighty1south.
Eighty1south was here last year and now [singer Caitlin Fisher] went on to win CMT’s “Can You Duet?”
Also, giving local musicians a place to sell their CDs. At some point in the future, I’d like to have a venue for us to do that – an outdoor venue.
I’m incorporating them into the farmers’ markets, and I’m going to hopefully include original music each week along with the farmers and vendors.

Eagle: When you’re talking about a venue, are you talking about an event to play at or like building something else in addition to a stage?
IW: Like South Branch Park, I definitely like the amphitheater idea. I’m going to be working on a South Branch Park committee to figure out the design of the outdoor theater, which is going to be fantastic.

Eagle: Speaking of that, what is your vision to redevelop South Branch Park?
IW: My thoughts on that are that it’s expensive. It’s like a little kid who wants everything, but there’s things that need to be earned.
Ultimately, I would like for it to become a gathering place for residents and for others to come for events, food, cultural food and other types of food.
I think the main objective is to work on the warehouse first because this provides us an indoor venue. Right now, most of our events are outdoor and we have nothing for indoor.
And also, Warfield. Warfield could be magic over there.

Eagle: Is that something you’re going to have to wait for to see what the developer, Cafritz Interests, plans are?
IW: If there’s an objective to go along with Warfield, people see the potential for it, hopefully we can get plans to move a little quicker on that, and get more of the residents and community involved.

Eagle: With Warfield, the developer had a couple ideas and I’m not sure if you read them or not. What are your ideas of what could go over there and what could happen over there?
IW: I’d love it to be some kind of arts and entertainment district with restaurants. I’d live to have a theater with music, plays, comedians. Smaller scale, something like a Ram’s Head. I’d love to see a Ram’s Head.
Like a little more upscale, sophisticated, groovy.
 
Eagle: What about Warfield Complex says to you it’s perfect for an arts and entertainment district?
IW: Because of its location and its untapped resources. The architecture is beautiful. There’s plenty of parking.
I don’t want to see it turned into a strip mall or another place where there’s just a dry cleaner or basic service strip mall. I don’t want to see that. I want to see it as a place where people look forward to going and you run into people you know, your neighbors.
With gas prices the way they are, people are always looking for something to do and you have to drive to Baltimore or down to D.C. or all the way up to Frederick, and it would be nice to walk or have someplace close to enjoy the arts.

Eagle: Back to South Branch Park, looking at the plan, do you think anything needs to be modified at all?
IW: I think it needs to be prioritized.
I think what has happened with South Branch Park is that the ideas are wonderful and beautiful, but where do you start?
What’s most important to the residents of Sykesville? What can we afford? We have a budget we’re dealing with, we can’t just say let’s do it and borrow more money. We can’t do that.
I talk to my neighbors, and I talk to people I know around town and ultimately it’s for everyone. It’s for all of us.
With South Branch Park, some of the things are great and wonderful, but they’re a little further out in the scheme of things. The warehouse is No. 1.

Eagle: What are a couple things that could wait?
IW: The splash area, and the overlooks. I would love to have them, and have them tomorrow, but we have to wait on those.

Eagle: What type of things have residents said to you about priorities for South Branch Park?
IW: The outdoor amphitheater and the outdoor venue for dances.
And for vendors, an indoor spot for vendors to sell for an artisans show.

Eagle: What will be your biggest challenge as Main Street manager/director of tourism? And why’s that?
IW: Budget. I’m hoping to generate revenue with fundraising, food sales. There’s some things in the future I don’t want to talk about right now just because I haven’t talked to the council yet.
It’s almost like the “Field of Dreams” where if you build it they would come. So, getting to that point, I’m still working on that.

Eagle: You touched on this at the beginning about getting on the same page all the existing groups, and if the town gets accepted, a Main Street Association built on top of it. We’ve already seen Destination Sykesville and Economic Development Committee be combined. What’s your vision about getting these groups to work together and talk together?
IW: It’s communication. I will communicate with the chairpersons of each committee and say we need to have one general meeting to figure out how we can combine our efforts and what each group is working on.
I can help you, you can help me, we can help each other because we all have the same goal in common.
I don’t think the downtown businesses will say they have too much businesses.  There’s never enough business, you can always add.
Having events to bring people to the town will ultimately bring them to Main Street, take a walk, eat at Beck’s, do some shopping, eat at different restaurants, have some sidewalk sales.

Eagle: People normally think of events happening in spring, summer and fall. How do you do it in the winter if at all?
IW: With the warehouse, and that’s why it’s at the top of the list. We need to start working on and utilizing that apple warehouse as soon as we can. It can be used for functions, for weddings.

Eagle: If the town does get accepted into the Main Street program and you have to bring on a Main Street committee, what would its role be?
IW: Its role would be to help me and to help the other members of the committee to come up with ideas and strategies for success of the program.
Everyone has ideas and open it up to the public. I know you can’t please everyone, but some people just need a venue to voice their opinion. I am open to any ideas, any help. I’m extremely approachable.

Eagle: What would your style be as a Main Street manager?
IW:  I’m more hands-on. I’m not a designator; I’m a doer. That’s what probably brought me  onto this position.

Eagle: Do you have any other plans to attract businesses to Sykesville?
IW: I think a lot of that depends on whether we get accepted to the Main Street Maryland program. That would open up some doors.

Eagle: What type of businesses do you think would make a good fit in town?
IW: More restaurants. Stores like Contrary Mary’s. Cool boutique-type stores. Unique, one-of-a-kind.

Eagle: Should chain businesses be welcomed downtown?
IW: I’m open to the idea. I can be swayed either way. I’m not set in my ways of thinking. Whatever works best for the community and the town of Sykesville, that’s my priority.
We’re in a democracy here. If that’s what most people want, then that’s what we’ll do. If they don’t, I’m not going to do what the people don’t want. I don’t have my own agenda.

Eagle: Is there anything else about yourself you’d like to share with our readers?
IW: I’m an independent thinker, and I’m a forward thinker. I’m extremely open-minded, laid back.
I’m always asking for ideas for community involvement. Everyone is always welcomed.
I’m an optimist, my glass is always half-full. If I run into a problem, I try to find the best possible outcome.
Rather than thinking of the negative, I always think of the positive. 

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