Aussie finds family in Kilgore

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Sonya Trout Waters arrived in Kilgore from Australia in January to take over the new role of special events coordinator, but the downtown she will be helping is a new concept for her.

“We don’t have downtowns like you have here; we don’t have Main Streets, so coming into these smaller cities and everyone has a Main Street or a downtown area and the uniqueness of it is just fantastic,” Waters said. “It’s definitely something that needs to be revitalized and really marketed out there. That’s what I’m really hoping to do with the downtown merchants is to get the word out there to shop local, to use the restaurants that are there and to just create the local foot traffic that’s in there, whether it’s from Kilgore or the surrounding areas as well.”

Waters will be working with the Main Street Program and city to promote events downtown, at Meadowbrook Golf and Event Center and at the Texan Theater as it continues to be renovated. Waters plans to focus first on events and festivities that have already established in Kilgore before looking at creating new ones.

“There’s some really good businesses down there, but a lot of people aren’t aware of them,” she said, noting many may not have the resources or the time to properly market themselves. “The city is going to be there and Main Street to promote them for them and use that a as a resource because we have the resources to do that. I think it’s really our duty with the Main Street department to promote for them because they’re there and they need to work on their business and our job is to bring traffic to them and try to help them in whatever businesses they’re doing by creating events that create foot traffic – that it’s getting the word out there, especially to the people of Kilgore.”

People still do not know the various types of events Kilgore hosts throughout the year, and Waters hopes to help get more people downtown for each one, she said.

“I’m really excited to be here. I really enjoy Kilgore. I have never come across such a unique city before. From the oil that you’ve got here and the rich history and everything like that. It’s just a really exciting place.”

Two of the events she is most looking forward to experiencing are Rangerette Revels in April and the Texas Shakespeare Festival this summer.

“That’s what I love about Kilgore is there’s so many cultural events here, like arts and culture, and I love that,” she said. “I’m very excited for it.”

Moving to East Texas from Brisbane, Australia she said, she did not know anyone in Kilgore. The atmosphere, though, has helped with the transition.

“It’s been really great,” she said. “Everyone is so welcoming and friendly, especially in the city itself. It’s definitely a great community atmosphere here, which coming from Australia, I don’t have any family or friends here, so having that welcoming community – work family, as such – has been really, really good. I’m a very social person, so having that little network has been really nice.”

Some of the events already on Waters’ radar to promote are the KilGogh Arts Festival and KidsGogh (March 23-24), Fridays After 5 (first Friday night April through September), Fourth of July in Kilgore, ‘Most Patriotic Town in Texas’ events throughout July, Oktoberfest, Downtown Trick or Treat and Christmas events in November and December.

Another event scheduled for this year is an Easter Egg Drop at Harris Street Park from 9 to 11 a.m. March 31, Saturday of Easter weekend, when two helicopters will drop about 40,000 plastic eggs throughout the park.

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