Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sentinel column - 10/29/10

As I write this, I am in the library of the Dalton, Massachusetts, public library. Clearly a building from before 1900, it has wireless internet and has many of the beautiful features of our own library – tall ceilings, big windows encased in lovely woodwork. But they are not lucky enough to have the space the Webb City library has. No meeting rooms here and only about 1/3 of our book space. In fact, it’s not nearly as big as even our original library, much less the expanded version.

The Webb City Library is a lesson in dreaming. When Dorothy Glover organized the campaign to expand the library, I truly thought her dream was just that – a dream. Yet two years later it was a reality. Had it been up to me, I would have dismissed the possibility out of hand. Good thing it wasn’t up to me.

I’m not good at the Big Idea. The market in many ways grew by accident and by good timing. After our first year in 2000, Paul Jackson, who had been a regular customer, told me that he thought the market needed an on-site manager. (The first year I just ran out and opened the market and then ran back by to close it down.) And Paul said the most remarkable thing. “I’d be happy to be the on-site manager.” I love people who come up with good ideas and then make them happen. It was having a manager on-site that allowed us to expand significantly and begin our journey towards a truly organized market. Paul started diagramming the spaces so he could pull vendors in and give each the space needed. It was some eight years later that research came out saying that on-site managers and diagrams were essential for a market to expand to more than just a few vendors. Paul saw the need before any research was available.

I think the same kind of growth may follow another project developing in Webb City – the Polar Bear Express. Last year, the Polar Bear Express was a rather spontaneous project that developed with only two weeks’ notice. (The “Bear” was added to the Polar Express after discussions with the franchise holder for train events connected to the book “The Polar Express”. We could never afford to do an official Polar Express train – they’re very elaborate and expensive. The franchise holder actually suggested we add “Bear” to the title, but still use many of the aspects of the books. He was incredibly generous with his suggestions.)

If all goes well, the Express, aka the streetcar, will run the afternoon and evenings of the first two Saturdays in December. The parks department plans to put up a big tent for children to visit with Santa, do some crafts and have a cup of hot chocolate. The Polar Bear will be waving off the train and high-fiving the passengers. Volunteer readers will read the book during the ride while the passengers follow along in the book placed on each bench.

The little depot on the south side of the park will be decked up (and we’d love to have some live elves to wave as the train goes by). The parks department plans to decorate the Georgia Bridge with Christmas lights. Once the sun goes down, it should really feel like the North Pole is just off in the distance.

I love Christmas and I just wonder if this might be the beginning of making Webb City a Christmas town. I’d love to hear your Christmas ideas – especially if you can make them happen!

The Farmers Market is open today with all-you-can-eat chili, plus cracker & Fritos, chocolate or vanilla pudding & drink for $6. SwingGrass plays from 11 to 1.
We’ll have painting tables set up for pumpkin painters today. We supply the paints, brushes and shirts; you supply the painters and pumpkins.

Next Friday we start our Winter Market, which looks a whole lot like regular market except we don’t have music – it can get a little cold for fragile musical instruments. Winter Market is under the pavilion from 11 to 2 on the first and third Friday of the month.