"Earlier this week on Main Street, it almost felt like the buildings were weeping, the town felt so sad."
That was County Council member Courtney Watson writing on her Facebook page after the deadly train derailment that claimed the lives of two promising teenage friends, Elizabeth Conway Nass and Rose Louese Mayr.
To support the business community after the devastating train accident that closed the downtown area to cars and foot traffic for days, HoCo Rising blogger Tom Coale created Main Street Appreciation Weekend, a grassroots effort designed to encourage people to patronize the shops and restaurants affected by the tragedy.
The event was embraced by almost 500 people who joined a Main Street Appreciation Weekend Facebook page.
Watson joined the effort by touting the event on her Facebook page. And Howard County Executive Ken Ulman made shopping in downtown easier with free metered parking for the weekend.
My family and I visited historic Ellicott City during the Main Street Appreciation Weekend. Walking around town, watching the many people with shopping bags and in restaurant windows, I saw the faces of a community that were still stunned by an unfathomable loss but were beginning to heal.
A makeshift memorial laden with flowers, toys and notes at TIber Alley gave the community an opportunity to express their condolences to the Nass and Mayr families.
Bustling stores and restaurants exemplified the care and concern for downtown business owners who have faced additional hardships in the past year — flash flooding from Hurricane Lee and power outages from the derecho that barreled through our region in late June.
Even the pouring rain on Sunday didn't stop people from patronizing the historic district stores and restaurants.
"This was a wonderful platform to meet people, and learn more out the shops on Ellicott City. I had a great time in the rain yesterday. It didn't dampen my spirits and thought of it as 'tears of joy' to help wash away an unforeseen tragedy," wrote Betsy Wallrich Stark on the Main Street Appreciation Weekend Facebook page.
Don't worry if you missed the Main Street Appreciation Weekend; the shops and restaurants would welcome a visit from you anytime.
In fact, there are two noteworthy events in the downtown area this weekend.
Tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 7, is the First Friday in the Historic District from 5 to 9 p.m. You will be treated to free live music, shop sales and specials.
Then on Sunday, Sept. 9, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Second Sunday Market will take place at the courtyards at Tonge Row, just off parking lot D.
A variety of vendors in the past have included farm fresh seasonal produce from Breezy Willow Organic Farm in West Friendship and Nathans' artisan breads hosted by Little French Market, Apple Bee Farm honey, Nick's Backfire meat rubs and spices, River House pizza, B'more Bill's Dills, cookies and brownies from Ruth's Rare Opportunity Farm and more.
Plus, adjacent to the courtyard are plenty of wonderful stores to continue your shopping such as Little French Market, Scoop Ahh Dee Doo ice cream and Mon Amie Boutique.
Have fun supporting local Howard County businesses.