by James Coulter
Last Friday evening, Lake Wales residents not only had the opportunity to appreciate their downtown area by perusing local businesses for food and wine, but they also had the opportunity to see what the future held for their small town.
Hosted by Lake Wales Main Street, the annual WineDownTown event drew in more than 400 attendees to not only enjoy a fine evening of food and drink but also receive a sneak peek of what their town can look like soon.
At 6 pm, the kickoff party for Lake Wales Envisioned was hosted to help launch the start of Charrette Week, a week when Lake Wales residents are invited to partake in various workshops to determine how their city will look moving forward.
The very next day, residents were able to provide their input at a hands-on design session at the James P Austin Community Center. Several open planning studios will be hosted throughout the week, and the feedback will be used to create a design plan that will be showcased in a presentation at Lake Wales Arts Council Auditorium on Fri. Apr. 20 at 6 p.m.
“Lake Wales Envisioned will guide growth and conservation throughout the city and its surrounding utility service area for decades to come,” its website states. “The foundation of this plan is community input, and we encourage all to get involved! This plan should lead to growth that will be economically and environmentally sensible, worthy of historic Lake Wales, and representative of the community’s priorities.”
Several city officials and chamber members congregated at the kickoff party Friday evening to commemorate the Lake Wales Envisioned initiative. City Manager James Slatton said how the plan will prove just as effective as the community input and involvement in it.
“We are going to need something from you all to make this a success,” he said. “For one, we need participation. We need you to be open-minded throughout the process, and I need you all to stick with it. We have to see this all the way through. We take these plans very seriously…and we are committed to making this a group effort. We really and truly want all of your participation.”
More than 26 local eateries and shops participated in this year’s WineDownTown. From 4 pm to 8 pm, more than 400 attendees scoured the downtown area to sample wine and horderves at select businesses including Oasis Spa, The Ranch, and Antiques & Oddities.
Erika Runkle drew attendees to her shop with some chicken soup provided by Market Cafe. She loves having the opportunity to bring in people to see her shop, especially potential customers who never knew about it.
“It is awesome,” he said. “We always have hundreds of people coming into our door who otherwise wouldn’t. So it is always fantastic for us. We appreciate Main Street for hosting the event, and everything they are doing to make our downtown better and help our merchants.”
Tiffany Davis, the owner of Wales Pointe Restaurant, loved drawing in customers that evening, many of who came for the drinks and taco bar and stayed to order and enjoy dinner.
“It gives people the opportunity to come in and sample a variety of food, and also sample the drinks that we have,” she said. “The amount of personnel or customers coming in is what I enjoy the most.”
This year’s event sold out with 400 tickets. Any year the event sells out is a good one because it shows how much residents and guests appreciate the downtown area and its businesses, said Karen Shuger, President and CEO of Lake Wales Main Street.
“This has been beyond our expectations,” she said. “It is always a sold-out event, so we are doing swimmingly.”
To learn more about Lake Wales Envisioned and the upcoming events for Charrette Week, visit their website at: https://lakewalesenvisioned.com/