By BRIAN SMITH
First Monday in Weatherford continued its turnaround Friday with the opening of the Heritage Park Event Center.
The opening of the facility coordinated with First Monday weekend in the city. After some dark days in the recent past, First Monday appears to be turning the corner, according to Parks and Recreation Director Danielle Felts.
“First Monday take a great commitment from everyone here and this is leaps and bounds better than last year,” Felts said. “It was a group effort to get this structure built. Everyone from the water department to the street department.”
Felts said the 400 available spaces are being filled by vendors at an increasing rate because of the many improvements to the grounds. Paved trails allow scooters and people with walkers to access the area with greater ease, which Toni Bethea of Cleburne, herself using a scooter, really liked.
“Used to be you couldn’t get along really well through here. Now you just zip whereever you need to go,” Bethea said. “This is a long time coming.”
The $300,000 facility, which will include offices and a check-in area for First Monday vendors, also includes restrooms that will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people that use the hike and bike trails, according to Director of Capital Transportation Projects Terry Hughes. Hughes, who was in charge of over seeing construction of the project, said the restrooms are vandal resistant.
Hughes said the structure was built of cedar and took about six months to build. Many of the amenities of the building help create an early, rustic charm to the facility. Keeping the small-town old west charm is important in the eyes of City Manager Jerry Blaisdell.
“Having the building looking like this keeps the heritage alive,” Blaisdell said. “This building is a vision of the council. It’s a vision of Mayor (Dennis) Hooks.”
Blaisdell said the crowds at Friday’s First Monday event were the busiest in 10 years. Having people interested in First Monday again reminds city officials of what could be in time.
“The continued renewal of the grounds are great,” Blaisdell said. “We’re coming back from the decline at record speed.”
Local realtor Eva Earl Rutledge said she visited with a woman from Arlington who used to go to Canton’s First Monday event to enjoy the atmosphere and said she appreciated the ability to stay closer to home.