Friday, August 28, 2015

Fun from now through September by John Dersham

Pre fall is always a super big time in DeKalb County. Now that school has started and gradually the weather will be shifting toward cooler temperatures and brightly colored leaves. Oh, but wait a minute, technically fall is not here until September 20th so I will discuss our late summer pre fall festivals and events which are plentiful enough that fall events will be a separate column, later.
Our first event is this Saturday, August 29 with the 11th annual Fyffe UFO Day. This event named after police got more than 200 calls from the Fyffe area in 1978 claiming they saw a UFO. The UFO Day festival celebrates that day with a full day of music (multiple acts), food, vendors, and inflatable bouncy events for the kids, an antique tractor show, arts and crafts and lots of alien looking balloons and characters scattered over the grounds of the Fyffe City Park. It all starts early Saturday with hot air balloons rides, call to make an appointment at 256-461-8612 and see more details about Fyffe UFO day on their Facebook page.
On this same day August 29th at 6:00 P.M at the Tom Bevil Lyceum you will not want to miss Music on the Mountain with performances  by Norman Blake and Jimmy Forture. Tickets are $15 each. Call 256-638-4418 ext 2248 for info.
Next up on the “you can’t miss it” list is the annual Ider Mule Day held each Labor Day (September 7) at Ider City Park. This timeless event fills your palette with mules, horses, inflatable’s for the kids, food, arts and crafts vendors, and Mule Pulls in the event arena. This event is always fun for the whole family. For more information see the Ider Mule Day Facebook page.
Boom comes the Alabama event of the year.  Fort Payne Boom Days Heritage Celebration concluding on Saturday, September 19 with a day of fun, great artists, and more than 20 music acts all day and night. Delbert Mclinton will perform a free concert at the Rotary Pavilion; Katie Sunshine the Hula Hoop performer will be back. To see everything going on all week, visit Boom Days on Facebook for all the artists’ scoops, times and details.
On September 25 and 26 you will want to attend the Collinsville Quilt Walk. This event each year celebrates the art of quilt making at its finest. Downtown Collinsville will feature quilts at multiple locations for you to enjoy walking around town to see and enjoy.
Fair time! Fair time! The 59th annual DeKalb County VFW Agricultural Fair comes to town on September 28th through October 3rd. This event is a classic well attended event each year. Visitors come from all over the region to enjoy the best county fair anywhere around. Almost every year this fair is award winning. Our fair hosts the best array of agricultural animal events including demonstrations and contests and inside the fair demonstration hall is a collection of the best produce and flowers the summer could grow. From jams and jellies to pickled everything to giant pumpkins, ears of corn, okra, tomatoes and squash the fair has a showing and a contest to celebrate the best in class. If you are an artist instead you can enter art or photography for your prize. Our fair is the best agricultural fair going and yes we have the midway too for all the fun rides and  laughs with all your friends and family.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

I love Fort Payne by John Dersham

Wow! We have so many good projects in the works here in Fort Payne. Those include: Main Street Fort Payne, the Lookout Mountain Gateway Trial, and the Shugarts One World Adventure restoration of the Beck Building into the Beck Discovery Center. Every one of these helps us redevelop our downtown area and also each will increase tourism to the area. Tourists love revived downtowns because they like to visit a town and find local mom and pop businesses that they won't find anywhere else. They like to visit the things that will make Fort Payne different from every other town. They like boutique shopping, art and craft oriented stores, restaurants/bars, brew pubs, antiques, walking and biking trails, parks and the list goes on. If you visit some of the towns successful and redevelopment through becoming a Main Street community or via other means you will find a great mix of tourists mixed in with the locals that are fueling the economy of these revived downtowns. This redevelopment of our downtown is economic development at its best, jobs will be created and more dollars will be spent locally by residents and by tourists. All of this money provides an increase in tax revenue collected by our city. This growth will provide the city and county more money to do more things that will help our city and in fact will help provide revenue for the entire county as visitors come and spread the money at our attractions and local venues and eating and shopping throughout our entire area.
Last Saturday, my wife, Kyle, our granddaughters, Tristan and Aris, and I attended Third Saturday Sunset in Fort Payne. We almost always go to this. I think we have missed only once this year. As I was walking around downtown enjoying myself, I was thinking how fortunate we are to have such a wonderful homey town to hold events like this. Everywhere we walked we ran into friends. My 9th grade granddaughter, Tristan, saw some high school friends to talk to and hang out with. The girls played games at The Spot, we looked at a large array of classic cars, we listened to Leah Seawright perform, we shopped in the stores, we played in the park. My six year old granddaughter, Aris, just learned to swing without being pushed and now she can't stop swinging. You remember that feeling of freedom as the breeze blows in your face as you swing up and down feeling the thrill. Oh my, if we could just keep that feeling as adults that we had when so much of what we did and experienced was for the first time. I guess it is the repetition in life that takes some of that sparkle away. None the less, we as a family really enjoy Third Saturday events. They are fun, but also evoke an enjoyment of thinking about our future in Fort Payne, which is getting more and more exciting and giving us more and more to look forward to.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Fort Payne- Main Street Alabama by John Dersham

Main Street Alabama will be in Fort Payne to host three days of interviews with a variety of people from every aspect of our community. We need everyone’s feedback as we begin the process of becoming a Main Street Alabama Community. We are honored to have been one of the three cities selected to begin this process this year. A special thanks to Lynn Brewer, Connie Fuller, Amy Johnson and Randy Grider for attending the required application seminar to officially enter our application to become a Main Street Alabama city. If you have a chance to visit other Main Street Alabama towns you will see what the Main Street organization will do to help us redevelop our original downtown historic area. The basic coverage area will be from 3rd street south to 8th street north. The idea is to dress up, repair and restore our historic downtown area to a thriving, bustling downtown again. Included  will be a signage and marketing program, there will be an increased diversity of businesses downtown with downtown housing and lots of boutique shopping experiences, restaurants, art galleries, art and hobby retail, entertainment venues. The idea of Main Street is to get all downtown buildings occupied and healthy. Paint, roof repair, mortar repair, landscaping and beautification projects are all a part of becoming a Main Street Community. If you visit Decatur, Florence, Gadsden, Opelika, Auburn, Fairhope and others you will see the results. These downtown areas are thriving again and they are fun and beautiful to the eye. Fort Payne provides the perfect setting for this process. We have a lot of historic buildings, great downtown parks, an original railroad depot all surrounding by attractive settings with a great view of Lookout Mountain. The Main Street Alabama staff told us, “You have the perfect Main Street setting”. We knew that all along, now we have a formal nationwide organization that has years of experience and a fantastic credible, highly professional template for us to follow from start to finish. For a small annual fee we will get years of expertise and a very elaborate set of plans to make all of this happen in Fort Payne. This is economic development at its best. It means jobs, new retail dollars coming in, rents being paid, more shoppers, more tourists, more places to eat. It also means no empty stores between each other. For the city of Fort Payne, it means new tax revenue coming in because more people are here, buying more and paying more taxes. It is a win, win situation but it takes all us to help make it successful.
On Tuesday evening August 11th at the Iron and Coal building from 5-8 P.M.  We want your ideas, your visions for downtown and we want to know what you think. We are all in this together to revitalize our downtown area. On Thursday, August 13th from 4:30 thru 6:00 P.M., the Main Street Alabama resource team will deliver a public presentation at the DeKalb Theater concerning their initial findings and recommendations. You will not want to miss either event.
During the process of our three day Main Street planning session Main Street Alabama will be interviewing people for all sectors of our business community including: retailers, bankers, realtors, city officials elected and employed, county officials and employees, our legislators, attorneys, clergy, economic development, tourism, chamber historic societies, museums and residents. It is our goal to give everyone a voice in this process. To do this successfully we need you to come and be a part of it. Please come Tuesday, August 11th at 5 P.M. to the Iron and Coal building. We look forward to seeing you there.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Whittler’s Corner revived in Fort Payne City Park by John Dersham

I did not get to attend Mayor Larry Chesser’s dedication ceremony of Whittler’s Corner in the Fort Payne City Park last Saturday, but I love the idea of having it. I think the mayor had a great idea in re-establishing Whittler’s corner, tree stump horseshoes and togetherness. Retro technologies and lifestyles are very popular again and are increasingly so among young people. The next thing becoming more popular is retro cultural experiences. These are places you can visit or create yourself that are not just retro in appearance but retro in the experience. There are examples of this all throughout culture. Collecting and listening to LP’s instead of CD’s is very popular. Retro photography using film and darkroom has a growing niche. Pottery, quilt making, woodworking and the list goes on and on. No technology either scientific, art or craft ever completely disappears. You can now take a vacation to a paid destination that by design takes you off the grid. No smart phones, notebooks, TV, email or text. Oh my, it might mean you will sit around a campfire and talk or sit on the front porch of a lodge with no TV or connectivity. You might eat together, walk together, and catch lighting bugs together. Maybe you’ll hike at night or just sit out and look at the stars. It is amazing how we can entertain ourselves if the options we have been using are no longer available, even if it is only for a day or a week.
When I was in high school I was in Columbia, Missouri. Columbia was and is a sort of upscale college town but all around it was good old solid Americana, rural towns. As a family we would go to those towns in the evening or a weekend just to mill around. We’d eat there (no chain restaurants), we walk around to various shops and usually ended up somewhere local for ice cream. In 1972, I moved to Nashville, TN and began working for Colorcraft/Kodak film processing. I had been in photography for a long time already by that time. I was the middle Tennessee sales representative. Included in my territory was Nashville but also towns like Gallatin, Dickson, Lewisburg, Pulaski, Lawrenceburg, Columbia, Clarksville, Ashland, Franklin, Shelbyville and many more. Many of these towns were county seats with a courthouse square. In those days many of our accounts were on the square. Back then all drugstores sold cameras, film and photofinishing and most towns had a mom and pop camera store too. Yes, by then the outskirts had K-Mart and some other chain retailers that used our products and services too. In the 70’s all of those small towns were filled with men sitting around the courthouse yard wearing bib overalls and whittling and in many cases there were horseshoe and checker games going on. Since I was into photography I liked to take pictures in those downtown areas. I often checked out the courthouse lawn and see who was sitting out there solving the world’s problems. These guys were products of the great depression and World War II; they were hard working farmers, laborers or local business people. They were in the 70’s or 80’s by then they were retired…taking it easy whittling, talking to lifelong friends and probably talking politics and about the younger generation that seemed rather worthless to them. You know they won’t work and have that long hair and won’t do what they are told, was in the conversation. In 1982, my family and I moved to Philadelphia, PA as a company promotion and I got separated from those quaint middle TN rural towns. In the 1990’s we were again living near enough to Nashville to make trips there. We’d go through some of the towns that were part of my old stomping grounds but by then the elderly men on the courthouse lawn were gone. They died out and my generation that followed did not have whittling in their culture. By then, air conditioning, TV and various other entertainment venues were occupying the senior’s time. You could find them in the morning at any coffee shop, however, not whittling, not playing horseshoes or checkers but they were drinking coffee and talking about politics and that younger generation.
Myself and other Baby Boomers were here for the non electronic culture and we are here for the new technologies and most of us use new technology in one way or another all the time and the new technologies are great but sometimes I like to think back to a time less congested with technology that takes you away from a simpler form of communicating with others and simpler more easy going forms of entertainment, like sitting on the porch in the evening, playing in the yard with the kids watching daylight fade to darkness then staying out to enjoy the stars and the cooling air. I think we all need a little retro in our lives a little calm a little time to revive the spirit. I am glad we have revived Whittler’s Corner as a renewed addition to Fort Payne City Park. Horseshoes anyone?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Front Porch Communications Network by John Dersham

Televisions, computers, smart phones, laptops, note books, IPods, IPads, Netflix, social media, Skype, DVD’s, DVR’s all to make life easier, more efficient, more organized and more in contact with everyone and everything, right? Got to get to work, to church, to kids sports events, run here, run there- never stop, text message got to stay in touch every second, every day, right? So with all this technology that makes everything you do faster and easier why is there such a disconnect in being connected? Instead of using our devices as a tool to speed up our work and our personal lives like it could, we have made electronics our life and our entertainment. You know our culture has changed when you’d rather text a person then call them or even worse, text them when they are in the next room from you.  Even worse than that, argue with them, criticize them or slander them via text or email or social media when you’d never sit them down, look them in the eye and tell them that same information. With all of this said, I’d like to introduce the Front Porch Communications Network. It is where, we the people (politicians too) talk through issues face to face with the intent of establishing a middle ground, a compromise. In family life, in the work place and in politics, solutions are established “for the people and about the people”. It is the place families meet in the evening and sit and talk and look at each other and enjoy the birds chirping and the crickets scraping their legs together and the smell of the air and the feel of the breeze with the sun sinking low and falling into darkness. You can argue and look at each other while you are doing it. You can talk of days gone by and tell funny stories about what each other did once upon a time. You can pray, you can talk about science and history and math. You can talk about the future and you can love one another and feel bonded by your closeness. I think one of the reasons we are not working out differences in opinions in politics and in our home lives has to do with the way we communicate. Instead of looking at each other face to face and talking through our issues with the intent of reaching some compromise we are communicating our beliefs electronically and in the case of politicians via radio or television. The problem with this system is it distributes the opinion but does not offer a discussion of opposing viewpoints and once spoken to the world in the media the opinion becomes locked in and compromise becomes an ego issue. The opposing viewpoints are then distributed on TV and radio too and no real discussion has taken place between the parties involved. Compromise is worked out through joint efforts between people talking to each other and working with each other with the intent to find a viable solution that everyone can agree upon, or live with.
When I was a kid, friends and I played outside till dark in the summer. No thought of staying inside. At that time the only thing on TV during the summer were reruns from the same year. At that point we had CBS, NBC and ABC.  There were no choices for shows being produced and viewed as new episodes throughout the year, like now. None the less our culture was to be outside in the evening and our parents were too. All of the adults were sitting on their front porches. We would walk the neighborhood. There were sidewalks and you’d drop in on people on their porches. If you wanted to talk, there was no need to call them, just walk to their house and they’d most likely be on the porch which was very communal. It was a way of life and no one was looking for privacy while on the front porch. They were relaxing, feeling the pleasant evening air and talking with neighbors and friends, in person. I can still hear my relatives arguing with each other on the front porch about politics, children and social opinion. They would tell each other how wrong they were, but in those conversations they always had some form of resolution to the issue and invariably someone else would say, well that might work. I think we’d get along better and accomplish more if we’d spend a little more time using the Front Porch Communication Network and less time alone reading and watching other people’s opinion with no discussion. In a world that has a format for everyone’s opinion to be heard and accuracy of detail or correctness of information is not required we need to step back a little and do some face to face time.