Missouri Main Street Connection Inc. (MMSC) partnered with the Missouri Humanities Council and the National Endowment for Humanities through ARPA in awarding $5,000 grants to 12 communities selected through a competitive process to fund projects focused on strengthening heritage and cultural tourism in rural Missouri. The grant helped each community implement a project and market itself to prospective visitors. These heritage tourism projects gave added value to the economies in each community through a range of projects from murals to walking tours to new monuments and building plaques that all highlight each respective community’s history for residents and visitors. One of the Marketing Heritage & Cultural Tourism grants was awarded to Cameron Main Street in March of 2022 with completion of the project in October of 2022.
Cameron Main Street is the Main Street program for Cameron, Missouri, located in the northwest part of the state on the outskirts of the Kansas City Metropolitan area. Cameron is a community of just over 8,000 people as of 2020, whose cultural tourism attractions revolve around the downtown commercial district’s reason for existing, the railroad. The City of Cameron was founded by the railroads, the main form of long-distance transportation back in the day, with many fascinating railroad stories from those early days of Cameron.
Cameron Main Street was the lead organization in a group of three nonprofit organizations, including the Cameron Historical Society and Cameron Municipal Band, that leveraged funding from Missouri Main Street Connection’s Marketing Heritage & Cultural Tourism grant to create programing on Thursdays throughout the summer of 2022 in underutilized areas of their downtown—including the Historic Depot Museum, two public parks, and the downtown buildings themselves—to reignite people’s interest in Cameron, Missouri. Gina Reed said they “[created] a day-long tour of history, music, and shopping that keeps money at home and doesn’t take much gas.” A guided tour of the Historic Depot Museum and a self-guided tour of the downtown using a brochure created by Cameron Main Street members took place on the 10 Thursdays throughout the summer during the free 10-concert series performed by the Cameron Municipal Band. The activities were promoted by Cameron Main Street for people to plan day trips to Cameron. These activities tapped into and shared the local traditions, history, and heritage that make Cameron a great place to visit.
The first thing visitors could do in 2022’s Summer Thursday’s was the guided tour of the Historic Depot Museum. Here docent Susan Smith gave visitors a look at artifacts and memorabilia of Cameron’s past as a railroad town including a genuine train whistle, the restored ticket booth and waiting room, and other objects which was the first-time seeing train memorabilia for several young visitors. Gina commented that one of the big draws they were trying to market was the “huge romance of the American railroad system that can be felt even today, decades after the last train rolled through town,” which visitors could participate in by viewing and waving from the platform at the two train cars that are located on the original railroad bed.
The self-guided tour of downtown shared the fantastic architectural features of the buildings in downtown Cameron such as detailed brickwork, plasterwork, moldings, woodwork, hardwood floors, and glass showcase windows with visitors. From the intricate brickwork on 120-year-old buildings in the original business district on Third Street, the original Cameron Hotel, and the huge tree at the corner of Third and Cherry planted in honor of the railroad employees who died while on duty moving passengers and freight around the nation, the self-guided tour was designed to show off the artistry of work from the past decades and the community in hope of cultivating an appreciation for these things in the new generation so they would find it worth saving.
The free 10-concert series was performed by the Cameron Municipal Band. They have a long history with Cameron and performing in the town square, McCorkle Park. How long of a history you ask? Just a 150-year tradition, that’s all! They are known throughout the area for their popular Patriotic concert and their Heritage concert as well. They even had free ice cream which was a nice cold treat for visitors to beat the summer heat.
Gina Reed reflects on those evenings following the festivities of the tours and concert as watching “tired but satisfied tourists [walking] east on Third Street, lit by Victorian-style streetlights, back to their cars or perhaps to their homes.” Cameron was built on the grid system so it’s very walkable town despite being founded in 1855. With the success of the efforts of Cameron Main Street, locals and visitors got to experience the convergence of the past and present. The downtown district served its original purpose, like it did for those in the past, as patrons enjoyed being out and about while enjoying life. Gina reminisces, “[The] streets are lined with houses with front porches, and if you listen closely, you can hear spoons clinking in tall glasses of sweet tea, and neighbors greeting passers-by. In some ways, Cameron is a typical small town, but in many ways, it is the BEST small town.
Missouri Main Street Connection awarded the Marketing Heritage & Cultural Tourism Grants in partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council and the National Endowment for Humanities through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).