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Meeting a long overdue cultural self-reflection

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

It was a pretty good one as far meetings go.

That’s because in the particular era Dryden finds itself in, meetings are more often than not a source of bad news, disappointment or some outrageous revelation.

But the gathering of business people in the lower level of the Riverview Lodge, May 27, set an interesting spark a-smouldering — one I hope will find the fuel it needs.

I’m not just talking about the fact that they served cocktails at this meeting, which was absolutely brilliant by the way.

No, it was a meeting with a single purpose: To discuss the social and cultural health of the community in discouraging times and what everybody thought they could do about it from the standpoint of the business community.

Through that topic, a passionate and long overdue exercise in self-reflection evolved into the evening as the attendees grasped to put their finger on the essential qualities that make events satisfying and worthwhile.

“This both excites me and scares me,” said David Durance, the community-minded proprietor of Kano Reid in Dryden’s downtown during the meeting.

In my experience, that’s how you know you might finally be getting somewhere.

How do you tap into the kind of mass appeal at the heart of the wildly popular Shake Your Booty fundraiser which raised over $100,000 in a single evening?

If only we could isolate those qualities that ensure any community endeavour’s success or failure.

This summer Dryden stands at a crossroads in terms of its cultural institutions. We are a community that tends to do certain things just because we’ve always done them.

We are also a community that tends not to do certain things because somewhere along the timeline it didn’t work for somebody else.

The rained-out Summer Hummer concert of the early 90s lives on as a scar in this town’s collective consciousness — a warning of what happens to those who risk too much on the whims of the weather.

Conversely, the annual home and trade show plods along much as it has since I was an infant, a shadow of its former grandeur.

For the first time in many years, I’m actually quite titillated by the sense of uncertainty before us, to see what might rise from the ashes.

Working this newspaper for the past eight years you gain a certain perspective that others might overlook. It’s a bit of a purgatory — taking the same pictures and writing the same stories to meet the same expectations of the same people year after year. Our community has long used the word ‘progressive’ as a self-descriptor.

In the words of the legendary sword-fighting Spaniard Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means, what you think it means.”

I open the question to you dear reader. How can Dryden, or the businesses of Dryden create the perfect conditions for interesting and fun things to happen organically in Dryden’s downtown and along the waterfront?

Perhaps more importantly, how do you do it without creating another committee, or other cumbersome leadership structure that gets bogged down in the tail-chasing minutiae of ‘cultural planning.’

What would draw you downtown on a mid-week summer’s eve?


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