Community comes together in city's historic core.
Downtown Tyler shines as the city’s center of community activity, hosting popular events that bring the residents together and draw newcomers to the city.
According to Beverly Abell – known to many Tyler residents as the “downtown mom” – a lot of hard work, much of it accomplished by volunteers, is to thank for the area’s success.
“If we didn’t have volunteers, we would not have a downtown program,” says Abell, who serves as the director of Heart of Tyler Inc. and the department leader for the City of Tyler Main Street Department. “It was volunteers who got it started, and it’s volunteer who still carry it through today.”
Downtown Tyler Regains Vibrancy
Beginning in 1987, members of Heart of Tyler – a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization – have worked to restore downtown Tyler to its former glory. The all-volunteer group helped start the city’s Main Street program, and in 2008, the City of Tyler and Heart of Tyler formed a partnership to carry out a new downtown revitalization master plan now called Tyler First.
To date, the reinvestment in downtown Tyler totals more than $150 million – but it’s been well worth it. In addition to countless restored buildings, the area now includes several cultural attractions, such as Gallery Main Street and Liberty Hall, and hosts major events throughout the year.
“As your downtown evolves, you change your events, too, because what you have to offer people has changed,” Abell says.
Residents, Visitors Fill Downtown Streets and Venues
Two of downtown Tyler’s newest and most popular events are the Downtown Tyler Film Festival and the Red Dirt BBQ & Music Festival. Established in 2011, the film festival received more than 90 submissions from all over the world in 2015, with 24 films selected and shown over the course of four nights at Liberty Hall. Due to the festival’s success, Tyler is now on its way to being recognized as a Texas Film Friendly Community, which is a certification from the Texas Film Commission.
The Red Dirt BBQ & Music Festival, which began in 2014, is an annual celebration that features smoked meats from 18 of the state’s best barbecue restaurants, as well as beer and live music. Past performers include the Josh Abbott Band, Kyle Park, Stoney LaRue, The Bigsbys and other top acts.
“With new events such as these [the Downtown Tyler Film Festival and the Red Dirt BBQ & Music Festival] growing year after year, it builds up a positive image of downtown Tyler,” says Holli Conley, assistant vice president of marketing for Visit Tyler. “Where once it was a dying location, people are now starting to see downtown as the place to be for events and things to do.”
Additional crowd-pleasing downtown Tyler events include the Downtown Tyler Museums’ Holiday Open House, during which all of the area’s museums are open to the public for free; Downtown Tyler Wine Swirl, where attendees sample wine and food from local restaurants; and Juneteenth, a daylong celebration that honors the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Texas.