Page 32 - Wallingford Magazine Holiday 2020 Issue 30
P. 32

Passing the Baton from Liz Landow to Kathy Lilley
 by Steve Knight
Wallingford Center, Inc. is an important part of keeping our beautiful town center attractive and economically viable. It was established in 1987 as a private, not-for-profit organi- zation whose mission is to promote the town center, recruit and retain the small businesses in the district, enhance the beauty and image of the center of Wallingford, and to work with municipal departments and private entities to accom- plish these goals.
In the past 60 years, cities and towns throughout the country have undergone incredible change, and not at all for the better. “Downtown” used to be the primary shopping dis- trict and was the cultural life of the community, teeming with shoppers and commercial activity. Retail activity in particu- lar has evolved with shopping malls, strip malls, and big box stores drawing many of the customers from the town center to destinations dispersed throughout the community.
But the center of the community, especially in a town the size of Wallingford, is still the very heart of the community. We have all seen towns whose leaders virtually abandoned interest in maintaining the viability of their town center, re- sulting in a hollowed-out and unattractive town core. The en- tire community suffers when that decline occurs.
That has not happened in Wallingford for many reasons, most certainly because of organizations such as Wallingford Center Inc., along with a concerted municipal government effort to invest in infrastructure improvements, as well as support for WCI itself.
As stated in WCI’s website (, “WCI receives income from the Town of Wallingford and from private sources through fundraising efforts. It has a 15 member volunteer Board of Directors and currently one full time staff person. It receives support services from the Mayor of Wallingford, the Wallingford Town Council, the Wallingford Economic Development Commission, the Electric Division, the Public Works Department, the Parks and Recreation Department, and Police and Fire Services.
There is a real pooling of the resources of many volunteer groups, corporations, small businesses, town departments, and town government. These resources are in the form of monetary donations and active service work.”
Since 2009, WCI has been managed by Executive Di- rector Liz Landow, who has carried on with the public ser- vice of her parents, Sal and Rosemary Rascati. Prior to her elevation to executive director, Liz had been a board mem- ber since the year 2000 and the board vice-president since 2006.
As executive director, Liz has taken WCI in a different direction, with special attention given to getting the town center merchants more involved. She began having regu- lar “merchants’ meetings” to gather information on their needs, share the many creative ideas that these entrepre- neurs had, and involve them in new events promoting the center of town.
While WCI’s signature event was the “Taste of Walling- ford” festival on the first weekend of October, Liz embarked on new event initiatives. The Gardeners’ Market at Johanna Fishbein Park during summer Saturdays was established. That event still takes place, but has moved to Doolittle Park and is run privately. In an effort to publicize the many food- eating opportunities in our center, she initiated the Restau- rant HOP that takes place in May.
And 11 years ago, in order to bring people downtown to see what was available in the many small retail shops in the center of Wallingford, she began the Holiday Stroll. That event started modestly, but has grown to be an event attended by thousands of people, an event eagerly antici- pated each year that has grown exponentially.
WCI’s premier event is still Celebrate Wallingford, re- named from Taste of Wallingford as it grew to include doz- ens of businesses, scores of nonprofits, many crafters, and the participation of many groups that host special events for children, etc. It has grown such that it is 1) self-support- ing through sponsorships, 2) so large that it encompasses both sections North and South Main Streets as well as
Wallingford Magazine – Holiday 2020

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