The northeast Iowa town of Elkader is one of five national winners of the “Great American Main Street Award.” The Clayton County town won the honor at a big banquet in Indianapolis on Monday. Cindy Cook, program manager of Main Street Elkader, says the townspeople have made things happen.She says some 77 structures have been renovated, more than two million dollars has been invested in property values, retail sales taxes have gone up 30-percent and 81 new jobs have been created downtown. Cook says the upswing began about a decade ago with an unusual parade.A New Orleans-style funeral parade down Elkader’s main street laid to rest the “Despair Brothers” named Gloom and Doom in caskets. A party later welcomed Mr. Positive and Mr. Enthusiasm. Elkader was hit hard by the farm crisis of the 1980s and the floods in the ’90s. Cook says several projects have spruced up Elkader, including a 250-thousand dollar river walk and a “streetscape” project. She says volunteers helped do much of the work.Elkader’s six-block central business district is the focal point for the town of 14-hundred-65 people. Since the Great American Main Street program began in 1995, only 35 cities nationwide have been given the award. Five of them are in Iowa. The others are: Dubuque, Bonaparte, Corning and Keokuk.
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