thank you: eddie bumbaugh.

burgIMG_6608Some debts are simply too large to repay. Sometimes, “thank you” falls impossibly short. Sometimes, a person’s influence, impact, and value are too large to accurately measure.

By now you’ve likely heard the news: our beloved Eddie Bumbaugh, the 12-year Executive Director of the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, will retire from the position as 2015 draws to a close. However, and thankfully for all of us, from the sounds of it, he’s not retiring all the way. In hopes of getting all the juicy details, Brandy and I decided to take his wife, Jane, and him out for dinner recently.

Alas, even after a belly full of delicious Food Bar Food dinner and a cocktail, he wouldn’t expound specifically on his next step, stating only that he’ll “remain involved in the Harrisonburg community.” Brandy and I, happy to simply be breathing again, decided to be satisfied with this answer and just enjoy our evening with them.

burgIMG_6595 burgIMG_6598I did come prepared with a few additional questions. When I asked Eddie what he’ll miss the most about HDR, he replied immediately with “the staff.” He delivered several heart-warming compliments about his co-workers (not his underlings or subordinates or minions, but his co-workers) and their commitment and passion and enthusiasm that have made reporting to work each day joyful. He also revealed a real fondness for the excitement of new ideas and the planning of events – indeed, his eyes twinkled a bit when he spoke of these things.

He counts the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, a 100+ mile bicycle group ride, race, and festival that runs through and around the Burg, among his favorite Harrisonburg events because it allows him to experience our community through the eyes of people who aren’t from here. The race draws cyclists from all over the United States – many have never seen, Eddie says, “Old Order Mennonites or our beautiful skyline.” He likes the event because he likes to meet new people, and he likes anything that will encourage people to visit the Friendly City. Oh, and he likes to bicycle, too.

From there, most of our dinner conversation centered around travel and nature. You may or may not have known that Eddie is an avid cyclist and runner, a lot of which he does right here in the Shenandoah Valley because of its natural eye candy. He and Jane have hiked a hefty portion of the Appalachian Trail. The four of us had a lot of fun sharing hiking and road trip stories. Jane, too, is quite adventurous.

Jane took a trip to Iceland with a bunch of seventh-graders, prompting Brandy and me to shout things like, “What?!” “Are you crazy??” “Are you OKAY??” at her. They were there about a week, which seemed to me to be a very short amount of time to visit a foreign country, given all the travel time involved. But guess what? It’s only like a five-hour flight! Anyway, what an amazing experience for those youngsters!! Thank goodness for people like Jane! So brave and generous, even though she will tell you it’s not all that hard and anyone can do it. These two seem to be a match made in heaven with their incredible kindness, their willingness to try new and even risky ventures, and their ability to listen and compromise. Even in our relatively short conversation with the couple, Brandy and I could see those traits, shining clear as the candles on the table.

burgIMG_6624So now I’m finally getting to what I’ve wanted to do since I heard the news about Eddie’s impending departure: say Thank You.

Dear Eddie,
Harrisonburg and its citizens will never be able to repay you for the transformation that occurred under your leadership. I remember Harrisonburg twelve years ago, before you took the job. I remember seeing Dokken at a downtown establishment that was trying, really trying, to get on its feet. I remember when the Dodger, Joker’s, and The Little Grill were the only nightlife downtown, and no one walked to those places, at least not leisurely. I remember it felt like a lost cause. Thank you for ignoring all those who told you that the armpit of the city would never be the heart. They told you, “Don’t bother getting involved. We’ve tried it before. It’ll just be a waste of time, a disappointment.” Thank you for being the type of person to take those comments as a challenge. Thank you for also being the kind of person to listen, to contemplate and reflect, to consider the opinions and needs of others, and to bring everyone together with open communication and constructive conversations.

The evidence of your hard work shines for all to see now, twelve years later. Today when I go downtown, the streets are lit up. Delicious aromas waft out of dozens of restaurants. I can hear live music around every corner. There’s a good beer waiting for me about every five steps. And I am perfectly comfortable letting my kids wander around on their own – watching the ducks behind Clementine and SBC, walking to the library for new books, swinging into Bella Gelato for a treat, buying blueberries at the Farmers Market, and finding old Mom reading a book at Pale Fire when they’re all done with their adventure. :) Thank you for making my city safe for my children. If it weren’t, we would have left long ago.

I haven’t even touched upon the many events and activities we all enjoy now. Beer and music festivals, art markets, First Fridays, costume bike parades, Valley Fourth… too many to name. Not to mention the local retail options we now have, so we don’t have to shop at those “big stores.”

I don’t know what’s harder when taking a new job: inheriting a mess that you have to clean up, or inheriting something beautiful that you have to maintain and somehow improve upon. We know your successor cannot replace you, and we would not expect that. I imagine we’ll all expect more good things, because that’s what you’ve shown us. But we do not expect the accomplishment of “more good things” to happen in a vacuum. Those of us who live, work, and enjoy our downtown know that community growth happens through community involvement. We’ll stay involved, we’ll support local businesses, we’ll remember all that you’ve done to get us to this place, and we won’t let you down. We might not be able to pay you back, but we’ll pay it forward. We promise.

Cheers to you! Wishing you and Jane all the best, all the time! And don’t be a stranger.

Love, 
All of Us. The Whole Dang Town. 

burgIMG_6612Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

heaven on wheels: costume bike parade 2013.

Bike Parade 1Oh, suburbs, you’re killing us all.

The invention of suburbs was one of those “seemed like a good idea at the time” developments of the modern era. People could move out of those crowded, noisy, dirty cities and into a larger home on a sizable lot and enjoy peace, quiet, relative privacy. It sounded divine at the time and was quickly accepted as “a good idea.” But, as humans are wont to do, we didn’t think about the consequences… longer commutes in the car, more gas, more time, more water and other resources all for the sake of having a slice of real estate all to yourself. And the cities, vacated, simply fell apart. Businesses left. Factories closed. Crime increased. What a mess.

Then postmodernism came along and showed us that we don’t know jack. We have no foresight. We bulldoze along without thinking of ramifications down the road. At least we started to become aware of our lack of awareness, right?

And now we’re in some kind of post postmodernism where we’re trying to stem the tide of all those bad consequences. For example, we woke up to the fact that cars use too much gas, and the hybrid was born. Yay — fuel conservation! But what do I do when the battery in my Insight poops out?? I can’t just throw that thing in the landfill… And plug-in electric cars that require no gas at all — what a great idea! But if you’re plugging it in to an outlet fueled by coal, then… there’s not much environmental advantage. These are the problems we now see and are trying to fix… but when we fix them, will we finally have developed some foresight so we don’t create yet another new problem?

Problems like this reach an apex, where they’ve been worsening at an exponential rate and they start to double-back on themselves… and the only option is to start over. Get back to basics. We probably all recognize, on some level, that we can choose to simplify now, or we can wait until conditions deteriorate so badly that we’re forced to. Here in the burg we’ve been working on simplifying for some time. We have a number of community farms, like Port Road Community Garden, Collicello Gardens, and Our Community Farm, to name a few. The folks at The Natural Garden will actually arrive by bike to work in your yard. We’re a town of co-ops and collectives and local businesses and farmers markets. All of these endeavors underscore Harrisonburg’s desire to get back to basics: to reduce urban sprawl and make it easier for people to ditch their cars and walk or bike to work and school. To spend money locally. To undo some of the damage we’ve caused and try to conserve a little here and there. And to work as a community to solve our own problems, rather than leave those solutions in the hands of strangers. Slowly but surely, this community is gaining ground.

Bike Parade kids 3To that end, it’s Bike Month in Harrisonburg, kicked off on May 3rd with a Costume Bike Parade downtown. As I headed to the Turner Pavilion to meet Brandy, I saw the first cyclist of the evening: Noel Levan, sporting Kermit The Frog socks and a clown nose, among other silly items. Little by little bike enthusiasts started rolling in. Some of the costumes included a Banana, Mario, and a shiny metallic sword-bearing Robot (Nate Shearer). Some type of fox-like animal, which might have been a kangaroo because I heard him refer to himself as marsupial. An old man in a bathrobe, a spring fairy, and a cat with a bull horn. A cow wearing a boa, a butterfly, and a disco sompn-or-other.

Bike Parade group 2 Bike Parade group 4There were a dozen or so kids — a little Spiderman, Pebbles, a doctor, a knight, a couple of fair princesses…

Bike Parade kids 2And there were a few scoundrels — one who looked like Captain America but might have been a sinister Gladiator… gun totin’ Blue Bullet and the Bandits (they actually had a horse head on the bike)… and <eeek!> Jason.

And let’s not forget Tony Lopez being assaulted by Dark Spiderman!

Bike Parade group Bike Parade group 3After the parade, participants attended Singletrack High and the Adventure Seen Cycling Film Festival at Court Square Theater. What a night!

Bike Week theater 1 Bike Week theater 3But that’s not all. The month of May is full of bike-related events to bolster support for our ever-growing cycling community. Just last week Harrisonburg enjoyed Bike to Worship, Bike to Work, and Bike to School events, as well as the annual Ride of Silence. Still to come, an Ice Cream Ride, Sunday the 26th at 2pm at the Wolfe Street Kline’s, and if you donate to the Northend Greenway this month, you could win a bike with accessories! And the burg has lots of long-term bike initiatives in place, including Rocktown Trails, Bluestone Trail, the Northend Greenway, and the Bike-Ped Plan, all in the name of improving safety and accessibility for cyclists and pedestrians.

Bike Week theater 2When we look at the world, or rather, our corner of it, it’s easy to see the problems, the destruction, our detachment from nature, other people, and ourselves. But little things, like this event, start as a seed of hope in one person’s heart, germinate into an idea hatched among friends over a few cups of coffee or mugs of beer, grow into a community event, and then evolve into a movement. Action. Awareness. Progress. I moved here nearly twenty years ago. I was a 21 year old wearing a huge set of blinders and didn’t know squat about art or the environment or social consciousness. I essentially grew up here; most people do mature a great deal between age 21 and 41. But this city made me evolve; it made me aware; it woke me up. This is where I learned to care about things way bigger than I. I am so grateful my kids are learning, too. So grateful this is my community. So grateful for all of you.

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers.This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

what makes the burg go round: LOVEworks.

On Saturday, April 13, the kids and I made our usual trip to Shank’s Bakery and the Farmers Market when we spotted our friend Nicole in the back yard of the Arts Council building. And then we remembered it was a special day! It was the day to unveil LOVEworks!

LOVEworks 3The caution tape around the large, six-foot letters was intriguing enough — toddlers chased each other between the letters and tugged curiously at the yellow ribbon — but Cal was especially impressed by the giant novelty scissors Nicole pulled from the trunk of her car. He promptly noted she was NOT running with them because that would be “extra-dangerous.”

Before she and other officiants cut the ribbon, she filled in the gathering crowd on the unique project. LOVEworks is a program by the Virginia Tourism Corporation that seeks to promote the message that “love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation.” Harrisonburg makes the twenty-first city in Virginia to create and display a LOVEworks sculpture. You can see pictures of the other twenty sculptures at the Virginia Is For Lovers site.

LOVEworks collageHarrisonburg artists Nicole Martorana (yes, she wears a lot of hats), Jeff Guinn, and Mike Herr designed our love letters, each six feet tall and spanning a total of sixteen feet. The L represents Harrisonburg’s cultural diversity and is covered with a photographic collage of local residents’ belongings from their native countries. The O is wooden, representing agriculture, with a planter built into the top (holding strawberries, sedums, and other native plants) and metal sides that will rust over time.

LOVEworks sculptureThe V is made of bicycle parts and spray-painted blaze orange to symbolize our cycling, hunting, and fishing friends. And the E is a combination of magnetic dry erase and chalk board designed to be an interactive symbol of Harrisonburg’s love of art. In fact, it can be used as another exhibit location on the First Fridays art walk.

And then, the giant scissors snapped and LOVE became an official fixture downtown.
But we already knew that, huh? :)

LOVEworks coupleCopyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.