Discover Lisbon Downtown Director Emily Rotondo stands on Main Street in Lisbon April 7. Submitted photo

New Discover Lisbon Downtown Director Emily Rotondo spent a lot of time in downtowns as a youth visiting the library, getting slushies and candy, and browsing stores, she said. The Rockport native spent a lot of time walking the streets of downtown Camden and Rockport.

She feels fortunate that local businesses embraced youths like her in their stores, as she feels it was formative for her, she said. Hired in April, she is working to help grow and support Lisbon’s downtown through the town’s participation in the National Main Street program.

What is special about downtown areas and what do they mean to the towns that have them? Downtowns are the places people connect, friends meet, and communities come together. They are the heart of a community.

What are some of the favorite downtown celebrations that you have attended and how do those events help support the community? There are so many wonderful downtown celebrations and I have a lot of favorites. In the summertime, Moxie Days (July 12 – 14) in Lisbon is pure magic. It’s really cool how something as simple as a kind of soda – and the Maine “you’ve got moxie” spirit – can bring together thousands of people. The number of Lisbon Parks and Recreation staff and volunteers required to pull it off is intense, but there’s no price you can put on the community pride and memories.

December is when Maine downtowns are really at their best. The lights, the stores, the community events – it’s really heartwarming to see so many people come out, in the darkest time of year, all bundled up to take part in beloved community traditions. “Sing! It’s Christmas” at the Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath is the most wonderful event I’ve ever been to. Hearing more than 200 people do sing-a-longs together inside the gorgeous facility was a transformative experience for me.

What interested you in the director job for Discover Lisbon? Community-building is at the center of the National Main Street approach and why I took this job. People today, from youth to elderly, are more disconnected and have fewer relationships than ever before. Downtowns can offer an antidote to our isolation epidemic. Main street organizations are all about welcoming people into public spaces and encouraging people to get to know their neighbors and local business owners and take an active part in their community. I want that for my community, which is what inspired me to apply.

What are your initial observations about the Lisbon community so far? Lisbon has a really interesting and unique history and its residents (myself included) take pride in that. We are a former mill town, so that character remains a central part of Lisbon’s identity. We are celebrating our 225th birthday on June 22nd and having a big community party. The day will be filled with tours and talks around town and festivities.

I’ve also noticed that the Lisbon community is particularly supportive of our small businesses. When a new business opens, it’s a big deal and there is a lot of organic support. Our businesses are really embraced by residents and, to me, that partly signifies that our community is poised and ready for more businesses to open and serve our community.

In what ways do you hope to support and grow Lisbon’s downtown area? In my role as downtown director, I will focus on the three core commercial areas in Lisbon: Lisbon Village, Main Street in the Falls, and along Route 196. Each area has its own unique characteristics that can be highlighted. But really, I will start with listening to what community members want to see in those areas and then from there try to implement growth. Central to the National Main Street approach is that community development should be volunteer led. An important part of my job is to empower residents and encourage folks to get involved in their downtown.

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