By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
The spotlight will shine on Welland Friday evening.
As the recently-coined expression puts it: “It’s All Welland Good!”
You might say this has become the hottest ticket in town.
Several hundred tickets have been sold, exact count was not known at the time this piece was being written. But a great turnout is expected when the evening starts, at Riverstone Event Centre on River Road.
This has been a long time coming.
The planning process began about two years ago.
The original intent was to try and come up with a Welland image. Our city needed something definitive.
A key public meeting was one at which Niagara College president Dan Patterson was the guest speaker. It was inspiring and empowering. It led to a decision to hold a follow-up meeting for participants at that session. It didn’t stop there. More get togethers were held by these volunteers. Sometime a handful showed up. Other times 15 or so were in attendance.
The brainstorming led to a concept: a public meeting at which representatives of various sectors of the Welland community would be invited to speak – but only briefly. The list was lengthy but through careful and well thought out grouping and collating, the list was whittled down to 15. And it would be held on a long weekend, giving it a “homecoming” feeling for those returning to their Welland roots after time away.
My colleague from the outset, the Notre Dame teacher and community activist Paul Turner, deserves the credit for what has evolved over all these months and for what will come to fruition on Friday night. So does his committee, of course.
Turner, who says he is “passionate” about his community – he doesn’t have to say it, it shines brightly from those charming Irish eyes – emerged as the guiding light, the indefatigable organizer, the consummate pitchman, the glue that held it all together, and so much more.
Here’s the payoff. I’m sure Welland will be highlighted like never before. The four-minute-max presentations by speakers will focus on well known and maybe not so well known, traditional and emerging, components of our community. I won’t name them all but some of the themes are: Age-Friendly; Youth; Wellness; Flatwater, Trails, Illuminaqua; Real Estate and Development; Multicultural; Niagara College and more.
Here’s a reason why it’s needed. Sometime, as the saying goes, we don’t see the forest for the trees. It can be so disconcerting when we hear visitors or people new to our community sing its praises about what it has and what it has to offer, while many of us fail to see what we have in our midst. Sad to say, but we’re left scratching our heads in amazement.
Why is that? Why does it take an “outsider” to open our eyes?
The evening will be embellished by local talent – actors and musicians – many of them well known names. They will break up the five-speaker sets with live music for the enjoyment of all. And best of all, it is homegrown Welland talent, what else! A t-shirt, of course, will be available for purchase, with that catchy slogan It’s All Welland Good! for all to show off and wear with effusive pride when they put it on.
This should be a memorable night. One that will put Welland first and foremost, one that will remind us, teach us, convince us, illuminate us about what we have here. The event is not city-run, nor city-sponsored nor high-paying consultant coordinated. As my colleague Turner likes to say, it is the end product of a bunch of ordinary people who are “passionate” about their community. How well and good is that!
(A former reporter and city editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland., Ontario, Canada’s Rose City. My View is a regular feature, appearing on the blog from time to time.)