Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Embracing Binghamton's Renaissance

This morning, I was gently reminded by our good friends over at Facebook headquarters of a status update posted three years ago on my personal timeline. Posted before this blog and its own Facebook page were even in existence:

"What a difference two decades make! 20 years ago, I became a Binghamton resident. A Binghamton that resembled a ghost town after dark and on the weekends. A Binghamton where the only entertainment to be found was roaming the mall (in Johnson City) or getting in your car to explore Ithaca, Syracuse or Scranton. Now residents from those areas (and many others) are coming here to participate in the seemingly endless list of activities and events going on. There are festivals, art walks, local theater productions, masquerade balls, races, golf tournaments, concerts, various sports events, and, even duck races thrown in for added excitement. The sidewalks are busy (maybe, not bustling - but it is not New York City and should not be compared to it). We are now at a point where instead of saying, "there is nothing to do here", we are asking ourselves, "how do we find the time to fit everything in?""

Three years later and Binghamton is better than ever due in a large part to the ever growing community of people who put their hearts and souls into making a difference. People who refuse to allow the naysayers and their perpetual negative commentary from slowing them down. Individuals who provide outlets for creative, artistic and musical expression to be enjoyed by their fellow Binghamtonians; which in turn sparks all our imaginations of the future of the area. 

Folks who understand that their efforts are to be viewed as complements to what our local government officials and business owners are striving to accomplish in what can only be described as a renaissance. These men and women, for the most part, do not expect or demand any compensation for their efforts. The simple show of support and the smile on the faces of those who partake in the fruits of their endeavors is compensation enough to last a lifetime.

The next time you attend an event of any kind in the Binghamton area, please take a moment to thank those that made it possible. Remember, if not for them, Binghamton would still be a ghost town complete with tumbleweeds blowing down Court Street. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

31st Annual Spiedie Fest & Balloon Rally

Two years ago today, I wrote a blog post about the annual Spiedie Fest & Balloon Rally (Spiedie Fest & Balloon Rally: It's More Than Just Marinated Meat & Balloons). Granted, it was not my best journalistic effort, by any means, as I was new to the entire blogging concept. However, my thoughts concerning how this event reinforces the sense of community have not changed over the last two years. In fact, at the conclusion of this past weekend, I am more convinced than ever of how important this and similar events are to any community. 

This year was very different for me on a more personal level. It was the first year that I volunteered for the Spiedie Fest Committee. It's not everyday someone is privy to the amount of work that goes into an event such as this. The simple coordination of volunteer coverage at the entrance gates and on-site parking lots are not for the weak of heart or spirit. Before I continue with this, I must give a huge shout out to all those on the committee for doing what you do year after year.

Working at the entrance gate off the Bevier Street bridge provided me with the opportunity to observe how events such as this bring so many different segments of the community together. There were the young families with their strollers, baby carriers and wagons. The pure excitement on the faces of the children was enough to melt anyone's heart. 

There were the couples, young and old, who walked hand in hand through the gate and beyond. There was the group of young women, all decked out in the appropriate attire, celebrating a bachelorette party at the fest. For me, the most heartwarming of all was the exuberance on the faces and in the voices of those entering the park from several local organizations with their aides. To see how excited these individuals were, who must deal with varying degrees of disability on a daily basis, to be entering the park is something that will stick with me for a very long time.

So, again, it is not just about marinated meat or balloons. It is a combination of many factors all linked together by a common thread; the people. 

When it became apparent that the wind conditions were not favorable for evening launches on both Saturday and Sunday; there was no anger or mass exodus. People, young and old, lingered and enjoyed the simple companionship of family, friends and perfect strangers. Isn't this what being a part of a community is all about?