Although the name has changed from when the organization first came about in 1981, the mission of the Morristown Alliance for Commerce and Culture has always had a singular purpose: improve the economic climate and physical appearance of Morristown. The organization’s original name reflects that desire for change: Morrisville Action Corporation or MAC. The group of residents focused on ways to bring the community together and one well known event they sponsored was a community night known as “MAC Night” full of fun activities and music. Another of MAC’s interests was the preservation of historic buildings throughout the downtown and village. Through help from the State Agency’s Development and Community Affairs, Division of Historic Preservation, and the graduate students of the Historic Preservation Program for the University of Vermont, the organization worked on a basic planning document. The group interviewed citizens to see what they wanted for the future of their town, studied and assessed the village’s history and architecture, reviewed the development laws and drew up a document called the Downtown Morrisville Preservation Plan.
So in 1999 when the Morristown Select Board invited the Orton Family Foundation to sponsor one of their community forums in Morristown, MAC was primed to take part. The forum began with a viewing of a film about Morristown and was followed by a meeting to determine what were the priorities of Morristown residents. Judith Wrend and Joanne Harrison, who later started the town’s art center, River Arts, planned to attend just the film but ended up staying the whole day. “It was so exciting and engrossing,” Wrend said. After a large group session, the meeting broke out into subgroups to develop action plans.
“It seemed there was a lot of support in organization but there was really a group who had a lot of passion to organize things,” Harrison recalls. The four priorities that the town decided on that day are easily traceable to concrete changes that have happened since then. One desire was to create a multi-generational community arts center which grew quickly into River Arts. Another focus was to create a trail system. Today, the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail is finished and used by many for recreation. Out of the desire to preserve green space came the Morrisville Conservation Commission which is now a part of town government. The fourth priority decided on that day was downtown revitalization and reinforcing MAC’s mission. As a result of the forum, the town created a downtown revitalization plan, and created the position of community coordinator to help achieve these priorities. MAC changed its name to MACC, Morristown Alliance for Culture and Commerce, to reflect the community’s desire for culture and art in addition to economic development.
Today MACC is organized into three subcommittees: Marketing, Outreach, and Member Benefits; Economic Development and Business Outreach; and Arts, Design, and Beautification. Some of the more visible projects the organization is known for are the recent installation of the classic lampposts lining Copley Avenue or as it is better known, High School Hill. These lampposts are replicas of the lampposts that used to line the streets of town, at least two of which can be found relocated on Woods Edge Road in the village. Another ongoing project are the annual flower pots and holiday greens that decorate the village. Currently, MACC is offering historic and e911 plaques for display on buildings in town. MACC also sponsors community wide events every year including the Festival of Lights, Rocktoberfest, and used to organize the Christmas house tours and movies nights on the Oxbow.
When Wrend, Harrison and founding MAC member and current board member, Heather Sargent, think about how MACC can serve the community in the future, there is a mix of comments that mirror those ideals that MACC focused on right from its beginning. Both Wrend and Harrison would like to see an even bigger arts presence. Sargent would like a balance on commercial development and green space and doing more to ‘save the green.’ These might still seem like big tasks but when Harrison remembers the early days of forming River Arts, she shares, “When I go back through the minutes, I think how did we ever get people to do this? It was just a labor of love.” As MACC looks forward, the sentiment reminds us that anything can be accomplished with a little bit of commitment.