Group plans to get Fromberg sparkling again

By: 
Alastair Baker
News Editor

Photo by Alastair Baker - Members of the Fromberg Improvement Committee and volunteers, left to right, Lora Ryan, Ilsa Dawson, Carol Jones, Tim Nottingham, Dotty Nottingham, Marge Taylor, Nicki Elliott, FIC Vice President and Shirley Miller, FIC President.

Where does a small town go once all the amenities that make up the fabric of people’s lives have moved on? Towns that suffer this fate appear to slump down and huff and puff just to greet the new day. Well for Fromberg’s Main Street, so long like a sagging, dusty and neglected necklace, some well-deserved TLC is on the way.
The Fromberg Improvement Committee (FIC), founded originally in 1987, has ideas, big ideas, and is forging ahead with plans to bring a sparkle back to the town’s foundations.
Shirley Miller, FIC President, and Nicki Elliott, vice president, are part of a 9-strong group of ladies who are tired with Fromberg’s look. The team consists of Tammy Lynn, Tammy Taylor, Marge Taylor, Ilsa Dawson, Dotty Nottingham, Diane Dalin, and Carol Jones, plus volunteers and many school students.
One of the first projects the FIC started was to set aside $200 to each business owner to help paint the exterior of their stores.
“We donate the paint and will help them out,” said Miller. “The money is raised from bake sales and bazaars. In the spring we will host a soup and salad dinner. Each person makes one or two types of soup and we will sell pies by the slice. We are going to be really busy this next year.”
At present, the FIC is also working on turning the old grocery store into a co-operative antique hall as well as tend to the little homestead cabin out on the highway.
Edwards Black Smith Shop is one of the shining examples of the dedication and patience the FIC has as it took 4-5 years to hand paint it. Another is the Little Cowboy Bar whose owner Randy Wike renovated the bar after it was burned down and has also helped in improving the town in general.
The group, plus many volunteers, at the behest of Marge Taylor has also been working on the Gebo Cemetery, hauling off old trees and sprucing the place up.
The seed to improve the town began back in 1987 when John and Diane Miller and Marge Taylor worked with a group of people on the new football field for Fromberg High School. They had just finished according to Miller and were admiring their work when a car pulled up “with three great ladies”, Minn Ross, Marie Philips, and Dorothy Collins, inside.
History notes that with their “sweet smiles and pleading voices” they asked the group to “please work on this town. It looks terrible.”
The next year was spent doing just that. Sylvia Black started a door-to-door drive asking people for $1 each and from that benches for the main street were bought. Paint supplies followed with the money and topped off with donations.
A total of 8 buildings were painted that year by 3-6 women and some men.
There was no scaffolding it is recalled and to paint the tops of the buildings, the ladies had to stand inside the front loader of Herman Shanks' tractor.
Jump to 2004 and once again it was time to tackle Fromberg’s look. This time the painters had scaffolding, thanks to Allen Whetstein, and completed five buildings.
The project is made partially stress free by the fact that everything on the main street is owned by someone except City Hall, and one other building that is not being used; the Fromberg bank.
“Everyone is on board,” said Miller.
Having won the Fromberg Mayoral race last month, Miller has a unique opportunity to proceed with FIC’s vision for the town to make it “eye-popping.”
“As mayor, we have a chance to push this. The City has had some Program Income Money. We can apply to convert this to a revolving loan so business owners can take out a loan at a low rate and can improve their buildings, the gutters, brick structure,” said Miller.
“If the City can convert that into money, people can borrow against it if they need it for energy improvements,” she said. “There are a lot of things we need to look at.”
The colorful changes also mean that Fromberg is being led by a group that knows it can’t go back to having banks or grocery stores down the main street.
“The future of this town is like this; art galleries, stores like this,” said Miller, referring to the antique co-op.
“We want people to see us and not boarded up and filled with junk,” she said.
“Improvements are being made. It’s slow but we are doing it. Thank you to the ladies who started it way back when, they did a fantastic job, and those who followed and the volunteers and the youngsters who have chipped in. They do more than we could have asked them to do,” said Miller.
Lyndi O'Brien’s art class have even been involved in improving the look of Fromberg with a project called ‘Artist in a Box’ where the class got together and painted pumpkins for Halloween decorations downtown, using painting ideas from famous artists, like Picasso and Andy Warhol and others.
“They were all great,” said Miller.
The FIC is going full pelt to provide the town with this “opportunity,” said Elliot.
“I hope it inspires other towns,” said Elliot.
“We have been stagnant for a very long time. Now people are interested in getting things done. There is a new energy, new blood. And yes, we’ve got big plans and hope to accomplish most of them in the next few years,” said Miller.
For more photos please see photo gallery below.

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