Troy's Take: The Falmouth Village Association: Sustaining A Community Commitment

Troy ClarksonAmy Rader Photographer - Troy Clarkson

Mark Cilfone has seen the transformation of Main Street. Long before he and his family owned and operated their successful Community Cucina on Main Street, Mark worked at Charlie Syntsakos’s Food For Thought catering and restaurant on Queens Buyway, where the Glass Onion is located now. That was back in the ‘90s, before a $3 million renovation and incalculable amounts of dedication and civic commitment transformed our downtown into the retail mecca and restaurant row that it is today. 

Back in those days, a public event on Main Street was more likely to be me, Eddie Marks, and Pat Flynn walking down the centerline late at night after a couple of drinks at the Quarterdeck rather than the plethora of civic and community events that dot and highlight the calendar and the village today. Today’s Falmouth Village is a bustling civic, social and cultural corridor, the true heart of our community.

While the renovations—placing the utility poles behind the buildings, pedestrian scale lighting, improved sidewalks and planting strips—were the infrastructure improvements that began our downtown renaissance, support and engagement from the merchants and property owners had to be the backbone of any real revival. The Falmouth Village Association answered the call. President Jim Bowen was already an instrumental member of the Main Street Revitalization Committee—a diverse group of merchants, local officials and volunteers chaired by a young, enthusiastic and sometimes self-important visionary selectman (me)—so the foundation was already there for the FVA to play a critical role in restoring the downtown to its heyday in the 1970s, when it hummed with activity at places like the Jerry’s Bar and Grill and the Ten Acre grocery store.

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Jim and I were joined by energetic volunteers like Carol Chittenden from Eight Cousins Books, Carey Murphy from Kensington’s, Nancy Lambert from Cape Gallery Framers, Rita Pacheco from the Quarterdeck and Ed Zmuda from Puritan Clothing. They advised and made suggestions that helped shape the project. The stalwart presence, though, was always Jim. His dual role as a member of the town’s official committee and the president of the Village Association allowed him to support and encourage the town’s work while representing the interests of the merchants. When the sidewalks were torn up and left unimproved for several weeks while the town and the general contractor battled about the color of the concrete, Jim was an able diplomat and assured his sometimes skeptical, sometimes angry colleagues that the project would eventually result in a transformed village. He was right, and it did. Today’s downtown success is owed to people like Jim Carey, Carol, Nancy, Rita, and Ed, who gave their time to build a better Falmouth.

Today, equipped with those memories and those lessons on building a better downtown, Mark Cilfone continues the tradition as today’s president of the FVA. He brings a pledge to progress and vision similar to that of his predecessors, and is committed to an even greater role for the FVA in sustaining what the town and the merchants built. The Falmouth Village Association of 2014 has also expanded its scope and today sponsors multiple events that not only enhance the downtown experience, but raise funds that are then re-invested in the village. That dynamic has created a cycle of commerce and community commitment that is sure to sustain this economic hub for generations.

Next week, the FVA will welcome more than 30,000 visitors to Main Street for the Professional Arts & Crafts Street Festival, where crafters and artisans from around the nation will set up shop to show and sell their wares. The money raised by the association from this event is used to sponsor other efforts, including decorations at Christmas time, free family movies in Peg Noonan Park all summer, the jazz stroll in October, and the FVA’s latest investment, the Falmouth Fireworks. 

I met with Mark this week to chat about the FVA’s new commitment as the underwriting sponsor for Falmouth’s annual fireworks celebration, deservedly known as one of the country’s best fireworks displays. Mark simply noted that Falmouth’s Main Street is “open for business” and that he sees its sponsorship of one of Falmouth’s most legendary summer events as a very public way to support the community that has supported it. Just a few weeks ago, one of the defining events of summer in Falmouth was in peril due to a lack of financial commitment. As it did those many years ago, the Falmouth Village Association again answered the call. When I asked Mark to provide one word to describe today’s FVA, he quickly offered, “Dynamic.” Yes, indeed. Falmouth Village is vibrant, active and lively, all synonyms to Mark’s dynamic description, and all due to the support of Mark, FVA manager Patricia Cosgrove, and more than 50 small business owners who keep it going.

So on Sunday night, when the skies are ablaze with a rainbow of pyrotechnics and the beaches are beaming with thousands of smiles, we can thank Mark Cilfone and the Falmouth Village Association for supporting our Falmouth Fireworks—and for sustaining a community commitment. 

(Mr. Clarkson may be contacted at votetroy99@aol.com.)

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