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Heath Seymour is no stranger to downtown Elizabethtown.
During the ’70s and ’80s, his father owned and operated Seymour Shoes, a downtown shop.
“I kind of grew up running around downtown,” Seymour, 41, said. “That definitely caused an attachment to downtown.”
These days, Seymour still runs around downtown.
As the executive director of Elizabethtown-Hardin County Heritage Council, he often visits the downtown shops and keeps tabs on vacant city-owned properties he hopes to help fill in the coming years.
“I’m really interested in bringing in more businesses,” he said.
An artist most of his life, Seymour began his career helping downtown districts when he got involved helping Hodgenville as it prepared downtown for the Lincoln bicentennial.
“Then my painting started becoming my hobby,” Seymour said.
Following his stint helping Hodgenville he worked on Main Street programs and revitalization projects in Statesboro, Ga., and Scottsville.
He took the job in Scottsville, he said, because he missed being close to home.
“By that time I really was both feet into it,” Seymour said of his work helping revitalize downtown areas.
For a brief period, he said, he saw Scottsville reach 100 percent occupancy in downtown buildings. Scottsville also became a Kentucky League of Cities Enterprise Cities award recipient.
In his current role, Seymour has started drawing attention to downtown Elizabethtown. Last year he began Second Saturday, a monthly event in which downtown shops stay open later and include special attractions, such as music or activities.
Recent Second Saturdays have been boosted by other events held at the same time, such as Via Colori, a street-painting festival, and Zombie Fest, during which the heritage council held a chili cook-off that sold out in 45 minutes.
“It’s been picking up,” he said of Second Saturday attendance.
Just last weekend, downtown Elizabethtown hosted Nightmare on the Square, an Elizabethtown-Hardin County Heritage Council fundraising event formerly known as The Ghost Walk.
Nightmare on the Square featured events including coffin races, a costume contest, ghost walks, haunted hayrides, magic shows, scavenger hunts, live music and pumpkin painting, among other things.
“There’s a lot of moving parts in every event you do,” Seymour said.
The 100-plus volunteers are vital for making each event happen, he said.
“It takes a lot of volunteers,” he said. “It takes time.”
Seymoursaid the city has been very helpful in helping with the downtown revitalization efforts.
One of the ways the city helps, he said, is through a new grant program to help new businesses that want to locate downtown. Such assistance is needed to help Elizabethtown compete with places such as Bowling Green, Paducah and Owensboro, he said.
What Seymour is most proud of, he said, is helping bring in new businesses downtown.
Growth in downtown Elizabethtown has included a lot of small craft industries which consist of homemade products and Seymour foresees more such businesses arriving downtown in the future along with the possibility of more restaurants.
In order for downtown to grow, he said, buildings need to be brought up to shape and, eventually, some new buildings need to be built.
Downtown Elizabethtown, in some respects, is another palette for Seymour who is painting a picture that will take years to complete.
But he hasn’t given up his real painting, which he admits he has less time for.
Long before his involvement with downtown revitalization, Seymour made a living as a painter, showing his work “all over the country,” he said.
“I’ve been making money on that since the fifth grade,” he said of his art.
Back then Seymour would create paintings with subjects such as families, pets or even cars.
“I’d sell them or trade them for stuff,” he said.
About halfway through college, Seymour said, he started making a living at it. He eventually began selling commissioned works to companies including Brown-Forman.
Seymourstill paints, mostly in acrylic, though he has worked in watercolor, oil and pastels.
Now his role creating a portrait of a bustling downtown Elizabethtown seems to be as much on his mind as any acrylic painting he has planned for a canvas.
“I just wanted to get back here and do my part to work on that,” Seymour said.
Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
MORE ABOUT HEATH SEYMOUR:
City of birth: Louisville.
City of residence: Elizabethtown.
Family: Wife, LeeAnn; two daughters.
Favorite music: Alternative, jazz, classical, Bluegrass.
Favorite books: Nonfiction (how-to, science, business, obscure history).
Hobbies: Art, old audio equipment repair, mountain biking.