The Town of Mayodan, NC and Mayodan Downtown Merchants Association won an Award of Merit for Best Small Town Promotion for its annual Mayodan Hay Bale Sculpture Project, called “Hayodan” at the 2017 NC Main Street Annual Conference held in Shelby, NC on March 15, 2017. The project is sponsored jointly by the Downtown Mayodan Merchants’ Association and the Town of Mayodan. Businesses, associations, non-profits, school groups and citizens are invited to sponsor and decorate a large round hay bale and transform it into a work of art of their choosing. In 2016, a new street festival, the “What The Hay!” Fest, was inaugurated in downtown Mayodan to promote and support Hayodan and the downtown merchants. This year the festival will be October 13th and 14th (Watch the video here).
The idea for Hayodan originated in 2013, when the town staff erected a hay bale Easter bunny on Main Street in Mayodan. There was tremendous positive public response so the town and downtown merchants agreed that it should be expanded the next year. In the fall of 2014, twenty-four sponsored and decorated hay bales were created and placed around town, which resulted in more public support. That led to wide-spread interest from sponsors throughout the community for the 2015 hay bale season, with more than forty entries created. In 2016, there were more than fifty entries throughout town.
“The success of Hayodan would not be possible without the many community members that participate every year,” stated Mayor Jeffery Bullins.
Creativity, resourcefulness and imagination are all the talents needed to participate. Project expenses are minimal, with each participant paying a small fee to purchase the large round hay bale and a sign used to identify and promote the creators. Participants provide paint and any other supplies they desire to bring their “cre-hay-tions” to life.
In 2015, one family on Main Street created a round bale sculpture in their yard without registering in the program. And soon thereafter fall decorations, many of them featuring the typical rectangular hay bales, sprang up in yards on many of the neighborhood streets. Clearly, citizens became engaged in the appeal of their properties as an off shoot of the project, and thus the town has become characterized as “Hayodan” for the fall season when the bales are on display. The Town Manager, Michael Brandt, uses cleverly worded Facebook posts to promote “Hayodan,” and includes photographs to herald the appearance of each new hay bale creation. He observed noticeable increases to the Town’s Facebook “likes.” As it is with Facebook, however, the Mayodan brand and excitement for public art spread exponentially on social media as people came into town and posed for family photographs with the sculptures and then posted them on their own Facebook pages. People near and far “liked” Mayodan’s hay bale sculptures! An extended benefit of the project is that citizens are more aware of the news and services the town makes available on Facebook and on the town’s website.
Since the Town of Mayodan first joined the Main Street program, it has welcomed two new restaurants, a bakery, and an arts center. While the town cannot credit the Hayodan project as the sole driver of economic development in our town, it can truly say that this project has helped us to achieve some of our goals – to encourage town leadership, businesses and citizens to move beyond the “recovering mill town” mentality to promote Mayodan as alive, friendly, hopeful, artistic, attractive, resourceful and a great place to live, work and visit.
The NC Main Street program assists selected communities across the state in restoring economic vitality to their historic downtowns. Using a comprehensive downtown revitalization process developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Main Street encourages economic development within the context of historic preservation. Main Street staff provides technical assistance, guidance and training to participating communities. While grant funds for specific projects occasionally become available, Main Street is a self-help program, and it is up to local communities to provide the human and financial resources necessary to operate their downtown programs.