Hometown Pride Tour: The pandemic’s toll on downtown WF

Updated: Apr. 20, 2021 at 9:36 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (TNN) - After a year like no other, downtown Wichita Falls is starting to get back on its feet. Mason Brighton took an inside look with Downtown Wichita Falls Development Executive Director Jana Schmader at what it was like working through the pandemic.

“What do we need to do right now to save businesses,” said Schmader.

Like everyone else when the pandemic hit, Downtown Wichita Falls Development had to fully pivot their mission.

“Our mind turned from events and our normal recruitment activities into retention and recovery,” said Schmader.

Outdoor fundraisers like Cajun Fest, St. Patrick’s Day and Artwalk all had to be cancelled in the name of safety. Businesses closed their doors as Wichita Falls sheltered in place.

But, things began to improve as the year went on.

“The one thing that downtown knows is resiliency,” said Schmader. “There was a time where some people were down here and it wasn’t the hot topic in town and then people invested and they took risks and they are working on these old buildings. They’ve seen the fruits of that labor and the momentum that we all saw so our number one priority was to make sure that it wasn’t all for nothing.”

Now just over a year since the beginning of the pandemic, businesses and those who enjoyed downtown the most are back.

“The energy, there is nothing like it and it reassures me that the community does want downtown to grow,” said Schmader.

As for what the next big thing is? Well Cajun Fest is almost here.

“I think it may be the biggest one that we have ever had and that would be great if it is,” said Schmader.

The first of many signals that things are slowly but surely returning to normal.

“We see the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s been a tough year for everyone in the community, businesses and residents and citizens in general, but I think we are coming out of it in a way that I think is going to be good for the community,” said Schmader.

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