Last spring my experience of this community expanded thanks to the Gathering of the Friends of the Mountains-To-Sea Trail. I made quite a few new friends. Many of them I had seen in passing once or twice, but thanks to the extended time spent with them because of the Gathering and subsequent activities, they have not only become friends but the first people I look for when I go to any event.
The Gathering also brought me an even better understanding of the history of the town in which I live.
I had attended Jason Couch’s presentation at the Elkin Public Library which contained photos and facts that layered a story for every step through downtown streets, but it was walking them with Laura Gaylord during the Gathering that I’ve learned the one thing that I have repeated more than anything I have ever learned about any town anywhere: No one really wanted to tear down the old Chatham Bridge.
It was going to cost so much more to tear it down later and the state was willing to pay to have it done at that moment. Think about what both Jonesville and Elkin would be like if they had had to pay millions of dollars to take the bridge down.
At the Gathering I also learned that the trails have a significant economic impact on the community.
As I count the number of empty stores this year, the potential economic impact of the Gathering itself weighs heavily on my heart. We were unquestionably impressive last year as a community. We not only excelled in our invitation through downtown Elkin, but the hands of friendship extended well beyond the boundaries of just this town.
This year the plans are large and well fed from ideas first nurtured last year; however, downtown Elkin is a little anemic.
This is why it is so important that those of us who have spaces downtown make sure they are at their best.
We need stop depending on one person to roll up and down the street picking up other people’s cigarette butts. If we each take responsibility for our own strip of street, the entire town will look better.
Is it so much harder to extend our reach to streets and sidewalks in front of the abandoned neighbor? Company is coming. It’s time to wash windows, launder curtains and maybe even rearrange the furniture. Baseboards, door frames and other things we don’t even think about we need to spruce up, because we don’t know the next time they will return.
We want them to return. That’s rather the point.
That’s why every merchant should put forth some effort to be welcoming. Maybe it’s a menu item with the special name or a sale price for those who are registered. Maybe it’s something special about the atmosphere you present with special guests to enhance the wonderful things you already do.
These are the times to be creative. These are the opportunities to interact with people from clear across the state.
I mean clear across the state.
The Gathering will bring in people from all over North Carolina who have no other reason to be here than the trails convention and the trail itself. Our trails are pretty good, but we want them to bring people who aren’t interested in the trails as well.
It’s our time to shine. No matter where they go next, we want them to keep talking about bringing not only the Gathering back here to Elkin, but their friends and families as well.
The only way that is going to happen is if we go all out.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.