As our Main Street leaders depart from a meeting with the White House on rural placemaking, it reminds me that our downtowns provide a “living room” for the community. It is the gathering place for celebrations, protests, mournings and traditions. A lot has taken place these past few days that re-enforces that concept. The attacks in Paris have brought people to the public squares to mourn as a people but also to demonstrate resolve for the freedom to assemble. As we prepare for the holiday season of both Thanksgiving and Christmas, downtowns are preparing for lighting ceremonies and parades.
Communities for centuries have used the public squares, courthouse lawns and city parks in downtowns to gather for all sorts of purposes. The town crier used to make announcements from the city center, election results were distributed from the courthouse steps, and funerals would wind through the downtown streets to the local cemetery. Today’s downtowns provide the same opportunities with parades through downtown streets, movies on the courthouse lawn, music in the park and festivals lining the streets. All of these activities bring a community together to get to know one another better, to have neighborly conversations, and to cordially debate local and national issues face-to-face instead of from behind a computer screen. We need these downtown outlets for a community to be a community. So, get out there and enjoy your community’s living room.
(This blog post also reminds me of the awesome experience I had to spend some time with my community in Kansas City to celebrate the Kansas City Royals winning of the World Series. I joined the over 800,000 neighbors that gathered with their families in the city center—our living room in Kansas City—to celebrate our boys in blue. And I might add that with over 800,000 people gathered, only three non-neighborly folks were arrested for misbehaving. So again, get out and enjoy your downtown living room.)