HOULTON, Maine — Despite a recession that has closed the doors of countless large and small businesses, the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce has seen an increase in its annual membership and has mapped out a plan to boost those numbers even further by the fall.
Lori Weston, the Chamber’s executive director, told town councilors Monday evening about the progress the organization has made in the past year and described the events it has scheduled to pull more shoppers into the downtown and boost the bottom line of local businesses.
The increase in membership has become a trend since Weston took the helm in 2006. When Weston took charge, the Chamber had approximately 132 members. Weston told councilors on Monday evening that the organization now has 235 members, with 10 new members signing on since January.
“The Chamber is alive and well,” she told councilors, adding that Chamber staff and its board of directors had coordinated with business owners, groups and organizations to cobble together a jampacked summer schedule to bring more tourists and money into the community.
One of the biggest changes will be a revamped Houlton Community Market, according to Weston.
The Chamber began promoting the market last year, but the event didn’t capture a steady crowd of patrons. The market will be moved from Monument Park to the island in the center of Market Square.
“This year we have a diverse group of folks,” Weston told councilors. “We have vendors who are going to be offering fresh fruit and vegetables, baked goods, arts and crafts and other items. It is going to be packed, and it is great. The downtown merchants are so excited.”
The Community Market will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, May 29 to Sept. 4, weather permitting.
Midnight Madness, the annual late-night shopping extravaganza that kicks off Fourth of July activities in the community, will be held July 3. The annual parade will be held in Houlton on Independence Day, and the Houlton Agricultural Fair will run July 1-4.
The Houlton High School Alumni Association also will hold multiclass reunion festivities July 4-10, including an alumni social and a dinner and dance at the Millar Civic Center.
Other traditional events, including Potato Feast Days, will continue into the fall.