Rounding out the Square
Christa Miller leads efforts to drive visitors, events and businesses to the Historic Downtown Danville
By Stephanie Dolan
Christa Miller helps two Danville hotspots bring in events, businesses, visitors and gives Hendricks County residents a place to gather and call home.
Christa Miller leads the Downtown Danville Partnership that helps plan events and attract businesses to the Danville Square. (Photos by Faith Toole)
For four years Miller has served as the director of the Downtown Danville Partnership. She also works as the rental coordinator for the Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds and Conference Complex.
Before working for the partnership, Miller worked for four years as a private contractor to help run elements of the partnership that volunteers just couldn’t cover.
“The partnership was a volunteer organization, and they realized it was too much and needed someone to spearhead things,” she said. “At that time, I was hired on as a contract employee, but then they decided it was still bigger than that, so they hired me as executive director.”
Volunteers still help Miller carry out the mission of the Downtown Danville Partnership to develop, promote and sustain Danville’s Historic Courthouse Square. The organization sees the Square as a gathering place for Hendricks County for retail, civic, entertainment and government activity.
Outside of working to promote Danville, Miller is a single mother to Rogue, a seventh grader at Danville Community Middle School, and Oakley, a junior at Riverside High School in Indianapolis.
“I think she puts her heart into it,” said Mayberry Cafe owner Christine Born. “She’s very invested in the downtown and the people around it.”
Mayberry Cafe owner Christine Born and Christa Miller, Downtown Danville Partnership executive director, work together to energize downtown Danville throughout the year and during special events such as the Mayberry in the Midwest festival.
Miller’s path takes after her mother’s who worked as an event planner.
“I always helped her with her projects,” said Miller whose daughters now pitch in and help her, especially Oakley. “So, I just kind of fell into it and hit the ground running. I have a lot of support from my girls. It’s pretty cool when your 16-year-old daughter tells you that you’re the strongest woman she knows.”
The Downtown Danville Partnership precedes Miller’s work and started in 2007 after a study by the Danville Town Council to help bring life into the area, said board member Sally Steward. The partnership brought life into Danville but extends to people from across Hendricks County and beyond coming to events or to shop at businesses the partnership made possible.
When the partnership grew beyond what volunteers could handle, Miller, who was already involved, was a natural choice as the director, Steward said.
“She brings an energy to the work she does that a volunteer organization simply can’t because this is her sole purpose,” Steward said. “She’s done a fantastic job of taking us outside of Danville and taking us to the surrounding area. She’s able to form relationships with people. Her attention to detail is fantastic. “
While other small towns have anemic courthouse squares, Miller’s focus developed Danville’s into a big personality where people count on concerts and cruise-ins, Steward said. People flocking to the Square prove the partnership and Miller’s tenacity works.
“Everything we do is to support downtown Danville because downtown Danville has what other towns are trying to build, a place where the community can gather and make the town what it is,” Miller said.
Miller and partnership volunteers only accentuate that for business owners and residents.
“Downtown Danville Partnership has helped make Danville more of a destination place and gives you the vibe that there is always something going on in downtown Danville,” Born said.“It’s brought the festivals, the cruise-ins and recently our Mayberry in the Midwest. They also have grants for businesses to help improve their storefronts.”
The partnership creates events on the Square to bring people into the downtown area and keep it vibrant and busy, Miller said. The organization also disperses loans and grants to small businesses on the square through its Expansion and Attraction Fund.
“Those projects are unique to Downtown Danville Partnership,” she said. “We provide funding for businesses in our project area, which is a little past the boundaries of the Square.”
Since it formed, the partnership has given more than $200,000 in grants and loans to businesses on the Square, and businesses have opened as a result of these loans.
Currently, Miller is working on the partnership’s biggest event of the year: Mayberry in the Midwest, which will be larger than ever with the independent film “Mayberry Man” filming at the festival. Produced by Carmel’s Cort Howell, it’s one of several film locations for the “Andy Griffith Show” tribute.
Concerts, cruise-ins and Christmas on the Square also mark popular community events Miller leads the Downtown Danville Partnership volunteers bringing to the county seat.
“The Scarecrows on the Square in October always brings in a lot of out of town guests,” Miller said. “That’s something that has grown in popularity. That’s why we do everything we do.”
Still, there is nothing that yet competes with Mayberry. The seventh installation of the event will come to Danville May 15-17. The parade is Miller’s favorite part of Mayberry in the Midwest, that also pays homage to “The Andy Griffith Show” and came to Danville thanks to the location of Mayberry Cafe on the Square.
Other aspects of the festival include actors portraying the TV show’s characters, look alike contests, craft booths, food trucks and music.
“Mayberry in the Midwest is definitely my favorite event, but it’s certainly the one that also causes me the most stress,” she said. “Currently, I’m scheduling events and getting vendors. I’m working on sponsorship dollars, which is the hardest thing I have to do. I’m coordinating schedules and getting volunteers, and, of course, praying for the weather.”
The Downtown Danville Partnership gets funding from the Danville Town Council and event sponsors that show community support, Miller said.
As the face of the partnership, Miller does an amazing job, to say the least, said Megan Allen, co-owner of Danville Florist & Gifts.
“She goes beyond what her duties are, and it’s amazing to see what she’s accomplished,” Allen said. “We see a lot more people with events, and more than anything we see the higher traffic because of the promotions that they do or getting the word out that we’re there. Christa has really become more than just the face of the DDP. She has become a business friend and part of our family to us. I know multiple businesses that feel like this.”
Christa Miller, Downtown Danville Partnership executive director works with Megan Allen, co-owner of Danville Florist & Gifts, who sees increased foot traffic in the shop during the nonprofit’s planned events.
To see Downtown Danville Partnership events planned throughout the year, visit: http://downtowndanvillepartnership.com Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Getting to know Christa Miller
Do you have a favorite TV show? “Gilmore Girls.” I’m like Lorelei in that I drink way too much coffee.
Do you have pets? We have a dog named Sookie, from “Gilmore Girls.”
Do you have a favorite restaurant? I try to only go to locally owned restaurants in Danville. I think that’s important.
What is your favorite food? Anything someone cooks for me.
Do you have a favorite charity? We’re all working hard to make the community better for everyone.
Who or what inspires you? I like seeing people and families happy. Being together and enjoying what I’ve worked so hard to create is important. Life is too short to not be happy.