After three years of planning and working, the reception area of the Neal Welcome Center on West Main Street will open its doors for business on Saturday, September 30, coinciding with the Saturday in Carlisle fall festival. The center will be open that day from 9:00 to 5:00, and will be open afterward every Thursday, Friday and Saturday during the same hours.
The Saturday opening will be preceded by a Friday evening ceremony of dedication, to begin at 5:30 with a reception to follow. Because of space limitations, the dedication service will be by invitation only, with members of the Nicholas County Historical Society included.
The service will honor Dorothy & Eugene Neal with a plaque to be placed on the Neal Centers exterior. Dorothy Neal donated the building to the historical society in 2003, after the death of her husband, Gene, the longtime owner of the country store that was operated by the Neal family from 1932.
Much of the reception area, the first area of the building in which renovation is completed, will recreate the country store atmosphere which delighted both Nicholas Countians and visitors to the community during Eugene Neals years.
The reception area will be named in honor of the late Warren R. & Katherine T. Fisher, with a plaque mounted in the area. Warren & Kay Fisher were publishers of The Carlisle Mercury newspaper for many years and were supporters of the historical society and the Nicholas County community at large.
The Neal Welcome Center will become the only welcome center for Highway US 68 between Lexington and Maysville. Tourist information will be provided through a collaborative effort between the historical society and Carlisle-Nicholas Co. Tourism.
The center also will function as a community center. The society plans to have a variety of activities geared toward the interests of Nicholas County citizens of all ages. The society board feels that visitors to the community would like to have not only maps, pamphlets and directions, but a chance to see the community in action.
The Friday evening dedication ceremony will be followed by a reception, with doors opening to the public at 7:00. An art show provided by members of the Courthouse Square Arts Guild will be available for viewing until 9:00, and the show will remain in the center on Saturday and through the following weekend.
The historical societys plans for the building include work on the remainder of the first floor to become a museum and genealogical library. Later work will convert the upstairs back to its original Mozart Hall function, making it available for educational, art and other programs, as well as space for parties, wedding receptions and the like.