The Lowdown on Downtown!


The Lowdown on Downtown!

“Every success story is a constant adaptation, revision and change.” Richard Branson

When Justin Killingsworth, current and re-elected president of Downtown Business Alliance returned to Huntsville, he knew he wanted to bring change to downtown Huntsville–and that in order to do so, he had to step forward and get involved. As the current president of DBA, he is working closely with Annel Guadalupe, Main Street Manager-City of Huntsville, and other entities to bring back some of the things he remembers while growing up in Huntsville, like the Christmas Trail of Lights.

What is the difference between Huntsville Main Street, and Huntsville DBA?

Main Street and Huntsville DBA are two separate organizations. The City of Huntsville was designated as a Main Street City by the Texas Historical Commission in 2001, and has been a Main Street City for the past 21 years. The Main Street program and the Main Street Advisory Board support the Huntsville community in the preservation and revitalization of our historic downtown.  Huntsville DBA is a nonprofit organization, whose main priority is to promote and increase traffic to downtown businesses, as well as give back to the community. Huntsville DBA was formed in 2007.

How did the Christmas Lighting Festival project come about?

I can remember, as a child, when we had the Trail of Lights. This event ceased to exist when I was 10 or 11 years old.  I moved away, then came back, and have since opened several businesses here in Huntsville.  Around Christmas time, I noticed we didn’t have any Christmas lighting downtown. After doing a little research, I discovered Huntsville had not had decent Christmas lighting for the past 18 years. That’s when I approached Main Street. We developed a plan to execute this project and make it happen. Huntsville DBA worked collaboratively with the city and the county as equal contributors to this project. As a result, this year we will have a Christmas Lighting Festival that will include 22 lampposts surrounding the 4-block square around the courthouse. There will also be wreaths, garland, and wrapped trees on the courthouse lawn, as well as a nativity scene. Santa will also be present! Eventually, our goal is to include the entire 9-block radius, which covers 77 lamp posts. We hope to expand every year.  In fact, I’ve also been in communication with Sam Houston State University, and they’ve approved the continuation of the lights down Sam Houston Avenue, right up to the traffic signal at Humphrey’s. This will mostly involve tree lighting along Sam Houston Avenue on university property.

When will we start seeing this take place?

Lights will start going up in October, and we will actually be lighting them on the 2nd Saturday of November. We will host a Christmas Lighting Festival on November 12, from 3:30 – 7:30 p.m. All merchants, whether they’re a member of HDBA or not, will be invited to remain open and serve something complimentary, whether food, drinks, or adult beverages. This is our way of giving back to the community. The Rotary Club will also be involved. They’ll be serving hot chocolate. HDBA will be offering a chance to win $1000 in prizes!  All you have to do is pop in to the local shops and get a stamp on a card that will be provided to participants during the event. There will be lots of fun, food, drinks, and prizes! Mark your calendars, and SAVE THE DATE!

Be on the Look Out for the Following Upcoming Events:

Touch a Truck – Saturday, September 24, 2022, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Scare on the Square – Saturday, October 29, 2022, 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Downtown Christmas Fair – Saturday, December 3, 2022, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Prison City Film Festival ­– February 2023
What is your vision for Downtown Huntsville?

The vision is to create a “downtown life atmosphere” that will invite people to come, hang out, and enjoy what Huntsville has to offer. Whether the attraction is our local history, antique and resale shops, or nightlife, our goal is to create a sense of stability so there is always something to look forward to doing in downtown Huntsville. This means all the downtown merchants need to get involved. We want to revitalize, but also recreate, some of what used to be. This will help business owners on the square thrive. In recent years, we’ve had a lot of turnover in the businesses downtown, and much of that was due to lack of traffic flow to the downtown area. We plan to improve that.

What is being done now to reach that goal?

We are currently maximizing our marketing strategies to promote downtown Huntsville businesses. We are using billboards, mailouts, and events such as Sip & Shop, which happens every second Saturday of every month.  We have seen at least a 25% increase during the Sip & Shop hours alone. There are also new festivals on the calendar and a crowd favorite, Wine Down/Shop Small held in May.

Who are the leaders of Huntsville DBA?

Justin Killingsworth is the current and re-elected President; Vice President – Laura Bruns (past), Michele Miller (current); Secretary – Pam Conner; Treasurer – Sean Chaney (current), Monee Burke (past).

Who can contribute, and how?

Title sponsors are $4,500, with a two-year commitment for one of the four trees on the courthouse lawn. Currently, Walker County Federal Credit Union and Wischnewsky Dodge, as well as two anonymous contributors, are committed title sponsors. Their support has made it possible to get this project off the ground. Every contribution helps. Anyone can make a donation or sponsor a lamppost online at This is a good way to ensure this project continues in the future. We invite community members or business owners to sponsor a lamppost for $500 which covers them for two years.  Ultimately, all these projects require funding, so bringing awareness to the community regarding they do makes these projects possible.

In your opinion, what is key for this project to be a success?

I always ask myself, “What are we doing as a nonprofit to give back to our community?” Through creative thinking and creative marketing, we’ve been able to accelerate the process and have brought additional traffic to downtown Huntsville, but the key is community support and involvement. While it’s important for downtown merchants to capitalize and make a profit, it’s also important for the community to get something back as well. We have to ask, “What can we do to make the community more receptive?” As a business owner, I donate 6% back to the community through various sponsorships. This has helped me grow as a person, as a business, and as a community leader. I want the merchants downtown to be able to experience this as well.

The new Christmas project has generated a lot of excitement in town. It is not uncommon for people to drive four or more hours away from home to see and experience beautiful Christmas lights. You might think this doesn’t bring in revenue, but it does. Marshall, Texas is a good example. They’ve been able to increase their sales tax by $1.2 million. This gives the community and the merchants an opportunity to showcase what they have to offer. I recently attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the department of agriculture arena at Sam Houston State University. Dr. White, president of the university shared a fantastic quote, something along the lines of, “A vision is imaginary, but being able to bring that imaginary vision to light, is success.”  That hit home for me, because I envisioned something, and trying to bring people onboard has not come without roadblocks, but we found a way. I continue to advocate for this project. It was unimaginable to some people, but we had to describe it in such a way, that they too, could imagine it.

“We’ve built a strong relationship between the Main Street Program and Huntsville DBA,” Annel added. “It takes teamwork, hard work, and dedication to build those connections. Main Street focuses on revitalizing downtown, while also preserving its history. We want our businesses to thrive, our community members to succeed, and to see their dreams come to life. Every person who has opened a business has a dream; maybe they used their life savings. We want to see them reach their goals, and then more!”  This project is such a beautiful visual way to bring that kind of “Encanto” (Magic) of Christmas and the holidays. It paints a beautiful picture of what can happen when people collaborate and are willing to invest in their community. The City of Huntsville, Walker County, and the Downtown Business Alliance are invested equally to this project. I don’t think it’s something any one entity could’ve done on its own, but together it’s not only coming to fruition, but has the potential to grow. As a community, we see what can happen when people work together. The outcome is going to go much farther than just Christmas Lights.”

“HDBA has grown considerably since 2007,” said Justin. “The dynamics of our organization has changed, but in the last three years, the positivity and impact on our community has snowballed. We can’t wait to see what the future unfolds.”

For more information regarding upcoming events, visit:

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