The Ottumwa Courier

August 22, 2013

Downtown preparing for lively fall

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — Main Street Ottumwa's busiest season is closing in, with a slew of events to attract people downtown.

MSO executive director Bob Untiedt said the organization's annual events — Margaritas on Main, Walk on Art Street and History Walk — will be mixed in with a couple of new events: a Latin dance club and "Putting Around Downtown."

Starting on Sept. 13, a new Latin dance club will be held monthly at Tequila Grill. An instructor will teach salsa, merengue and cumbia styles for the first half hour, then dancers can practice what they've learned the rest of the night.

When someone walks into his office with an idea, Untiedt's first reaction is if they're willing to put some work into it and help MSO find community support, the idea can move forward.

That's how the Latin dance club was born. During strategic planning, one committee member wanted a place in Ottumwa to go salsa dancing.

"I said, why don't we just make it happen?" Untiedt said. "The most important goal in our organization is to be tighter with business and building owners in downtown Ottumwa. The second most important thing is we want to double the number of volunteers we have in the next two years."

Another new event is "Putting Around Downtown" on Oct. 10. MSO is working with the Ottumwa Area Chamber of Commerce to organize 18 downtown businesses for the miniature golf event.

Teams of four will pay $10 to participate. They'll keep score throughout and at the end, an award ceremony will be held in the grassy area next to Market on Main. So far, nine businesses have signed on and each will set a three- to five-stroke miniature golf hole in their building, using obstacles already in the business to challenge the putt-putters.

"It's not a huge thing, it's not a fundraiser, it's just to get people involved," he said. "My hope is some of the hundreds of people who work downtown every day will be engaged this way."

The next event on the calendar is Margaritas on Main on Aug. 29. The event launched last year and ended up being MSO's biggest fundraiser for the entire year.

It even won the award for best fundraising event in the state at Main Street Iowa's celebration in May.

The event includes, of course, margaritas as well as "heavy hors d'oeuvres" and a silent and live auction. This year, a women's mariachi band will be added to the mix.

"It ends up producing about 10 percent of our annual budget," Untiedt said.

Two days later, the sixth annual Walk on Art Street will be held downtown.

Untiedt said 28 artists have signed up to display their crafts, but he's most excited about the kids' activities.

"We have a lot of really good stuff for kids, too," he said. "We're having belly dancers, African drumming, different art stuff. I actually want to go and just be 12 years old."

Finally, MSO will hold the third annual History Walk, this year in the 300 block of East Main Street. Actors will represent well-known Ottumwans from 1929, who will describe downtown Ottumwa as it was back then.

This is Untiedt's first fall as the new MSO executive director since he began in February, and he said it's the organization's busiest season.

"The upside of it is this really is a very strong volunteer-led organization, so I don't have to manage every detail," he said.

In an average year, Untiedt said MSO has around 100 volunteers.

Upcoming Main Street Ottumwa events: 6-9 p.m. Aug. 29: Margaritas on Main at Las Palmas, 231 E. Second St. Tickets can be purchased at Main Street Ottumwa, Chamber of Commerce, Hotel Ottumwa or the Little Bake Shop for $30 for one or $100 for four. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 31: Walk on Art Street on Third Street next to Central Park. Includes art and food vendors, a children's area and entertainment on the park stage. Free to the public. 9 p.m.-midnight Sept. 13: A monthly Latin dance club at Tequila Grill. $5 per night. Oct. 10: Putting Around Downtown. Miniature golf course through 18 downtown businesses. Tournament starts at the chamber offices. Team of four: $10. 2-5 p.m. Oct. 13: History Walk. Tour the 300 block of East Main Street as actors recreate historic figures from Ottumwa's past. Tickets: $10. For more information, go to