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Community Pride Alive At Mount Vernon After Dark

MOUNT VERNON, IOWA (CBS2/FOX28) On a blustery day in Mount Vernon, Iowa, the hearts were warm and the spirits high. For the third year in a row, the city of 4,500 prepared for one of their biggest events of the year.

Mount Vernon After Dark serves as a site seeing tour of the city. It pairs local historic sites with restaurants, artists and musicians. There were eight historic apartments, one house and a fire station on this years tour. Each site offered food from a different restaurant, let visitors listen to the music of a local musician and even featured the artwork from a local artist.

When the event began, the city had already sold 150 tickets, but they expected to have plenty of walk up sales. The Director of Main Street and Marketing for the Mount Vernon/Lisbon Community Development Group, Joe Jennison, said that he had received phone calls from folks as far away as Chicago, inquiring about the event.

Its no wonder that the city is a popular destination, its been receiving national attention. Earlier this Summer, Fodors, a Travel Guide, named Mount Vernon, One of the 5 Midwestern Small Towns To Visit Now. A few years back, Budget Travel named Mount Vernon, One of Americas 10 Coolest Small Towns.

Clearly, the folks that live in Mount Vernon agree with the reviews. Casey OConnor lives with his three children and wife in Mount Vernon. Hes a transplant from Arizona, that may never move back. His family rents Joan and Ronnie Craigs home. Its a beautiful, green Queen Anne off of 210 1st Street East in Mount Vernon. It was once the Mount Vernon Hotel, and the shadows of the room numbers still are imprinted on the upstairs bedroom doors.

I get to live this kind of Normal Rockwell life, that I never even imagined even existed, OConnor said. 

OConnor said he and his family love discovering the homes history, plus they enjoy the convenience and community fill of the city.

On the night of Mount Vernon After Dark, artist Susan Hargus joined OConnor and his family in their home to showcase her work. Like OConnor, she is also a transplant. She is  from Los Angeles. After close friends moved to the area, Hargus was hooked.

We just fell in love with Mount Vernon, Hargus said. 

OConnor also has an artistic streak. He played in a band for years in Arizona and was happy to volunteer to be the musician in his home for the tour stop.

For me to be able to put something out there that expresses myself, thats who I am! OConnor said of playing his guitar. 
For both, participating in the event was an opportunity to share and broaden their reach as artists.

Jennison was also able to share his historic home on the tour. Its an apartment that overlooks Main Street. It was once part of a bank building.  In Jennisons home, the past is alive. On the night of the tour, he happily played, You Are My Sunshine, from his Player piano.

Like OConnor and Hargus, Jennison moved to Mount Vernon and found, home.

We care about our history, we care about our businesses, we care about our artists, we care about each other, Jennison said.
All of the money raised at Mount Vernon After Dark will go to the Mount Vernon/Lisbon Community Development Group to help fund other community events. The city hosts14 festivals each year.  

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