Autumn Leaves on the Square

What the DGA does for Georgetown’s Most Beautiful Square

“A lot of people don’t know who DGA is and what we do for the community,” says Dan Marek, current president of the Downtown Georgetown Association and owner of Georgetown Winery.

That’s probably true. Many people confuse the Downtown Georgetown Association with the Georgetown Main Street Program. “They help the downtown businesses maintain their façades, help them with their signs,” Dan explains. “The decorative signs on the poles, the decorative benches on the Square, that’s all Main Street.” The Georgetown Main Street Program, as its website states, “works to enhance downtown vibrancy and historic preservation.”

People in the community may not be immediately familiar with the Downtown Georgetown Association, but they are very familiar with its work. Market Days, First Fridays, Christmas Stroll, the upcoming Wine and Art Festival, and similar events are put on by the DGA. The Downtown Georgetown Association’s mission statement is “to work cooperatively to promote and enhance the vitality of Downtown Georgetown.”

Georgetown also has the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. “The CVB, just like the Chamber of Commerce, is there to promote the entire city, not just the downtown district for tourism,” Dan says. The DGA, Main Street Georgetown, and the CVB all work together for the betterment of Georgetown. “None of the organizations see it as competition in any way. Everybody does something a little bit different.”

The DGA, Main Street Georgetown, and the CVB meet together regularly for what they call the “city low-down meeting.” They also coordinate their advertisements to prevent duplications in ads. “We’re all here to do ultimately the same thing,” Dan says, “which is to promote downtown.”

Joyce Holmes, the DGA’s single full-time employee, points out, “It does take an awful lot of energy and expertise on many people’s parts to make the Square what it is. It’s a collective energy through the various organizations that makes the ‘wow’ factor out there.”

Christmas Stroll decorations

One look at the Square these days, and it’s easy to see what has been accomplished, but it wasn’t always that way. The DGA has been in existence for the past thirty years, but it had some bumpy times. “We did lots of good things,” says Carolyn Martin, owner of the Georgetown Antique Mall on the Square and one of the earlier DGA members. “It was a struggle to get the DGA going, but we persevered.”

Their perseverance paid off, even if initially they weren’t able to see the fruits of their labors. “We tried our first Market Days in ’98 or ’99,” Carolyn says. “It was hard to get people to participate. We had maybe five people who showed up.”

Today, Market Days attracts anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 people and more than 100 vendors. The number of vendors has increased in the past few years from the previous average of between 50 and 75, “which I think,” says Dan, “is because we’re getting the word out to the different communities.”

When Dan joined the DGA, advertising was localized to the city of Georgetown. “So what we did was advertise in Temple, Killeen, Ft. Hood, Round Rock, Cedar Park. We were trying to pull tourists into Georgetown at the same time. Over the seven years [the winery has] been in business [on the Square] we’ve seen a huge impact on shoppers coming in from out of town, which is what you want.”

“Dan has just been an amazing board president,” Joyce says. “He has taken the DGA to new levels, and he’s achieved such great success in the time he has been with us. . . . He really, really works hard for what the mission statement is, for what the DGA is all about, and what the end result is going to be. He’s really a remarkable person.”

Dan’s also modest. He humbly claims that he stepped up as the Downtown Georgetown Association president simply to get the DGA where it is today. “I don’t want it known that I did it. If I didn’t have my board with me, we wouldn’t be where we are now.”

Because Dan and his wife started a similar association in Rockdale fifteen years ago, he had the background to run an organization like the DGA. “I knew how to get it started, how to run it, and how to run it like a business so you save money every month, even if it’s just a little bit.” But he stresses repeatedly how much he needs his dedicated board members.

Kay Briggs, Dan Marek, Laurie Wendel, Lisa King, DGA Board members

DGA Board members Kay Briggs, Dan Marek, Laurie Wendel, Lisa King

The DGA’s Board of Directors members are volunteers who receive no compensation. “Usually,” Joyce says, “you find that after [the president] has served one term on a volunteer basis, which is very demanding, especially if they’re running their own business, they are satisfied that they have completed their office term.” Dan has now served for four years, which is two terms. “He always has the time to do [the job] right and to do it well.”

Dan will be stepping down as president at the end of his term, but he has accomplished the goals he had in mind when he accepted the position: “The DGA is thriving. We are financially stable, membership is high, and we’re making money to accomplish our goals.” They’ve also spent more money than ever before. “Our goal was to have money in the bank so if we need to buy a new computer, we can buy it.” This past year the DGA had enough money not just for a computer but for a trailer and barricades. The cost was $6,000. “And we had the money to cover it.”

The DGA has also spent more money on advertising than the organization has ever spent. “We spent $15,000 last year to advertise the downtown.” People see the ads on TV, hear them on the radio, or catch them at the bowling lanes and movie theatre. “We’re doing a lot of advertising. Most people don’t realize how much the DGA pumps into the downtown.”

“The end result is out there,” Joyce gestures to the Square. “I remember the first time I saw it, and it absolutely took my breath away.”

Joyce is not the only person affected this way. “A lot of people only come through Georgetown once every ten years or so,” Dan says, “and they don’t realize what’s in downtown, how it’s evolved, and where it’s going. They’ve asked, ‘When did Georgetown go through this transformation?’”

Thanks to Dan and his outstanding DGA team, more people are discovering Georgetown. Dan is confident that “Georgetown is becoming the next huge tourist destination in Texas.”


For more information about Downtown Georgetown Association, go to www.thegeorgetownsquare.com or call 512-868-8675.

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