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.

read it and keep: altered book contest, massanutten regional library.

altered book voteHaving been teaching and studying literature, and reading and writing for a long time, I’ve amassed a small library of books. They’re everywhere… all over the house. I haven’t quite made the leap to the e-reader yet, partially because I remember The Great CD Conversion of 1988 during which I spent a small fortune (for a 16 year old) replacing all my music cassettes. The thought of replacing just a tiny percentage of my book collection (say, the Joyce Carol Oates part, for example) is just too much to absorb. Plus, books are just prettier than an e-reader. I love how they look piled in a stack. I love moving them from the “To Read” stack to the “Finished” shelf. And some of their covers are nothing short of exquisite. In many cases, commissioned artists design those covers. And so a real paper and cardboard book is a work of art, through and through.

It’s sad to think of a book in a dumpster. In the landfill. But to hoard every book I’ve ever owned to prevent it from ending up in the trash is… well… hoarding. The neat freak in me can’t do that.

Much to my relief, my inner neat freak and my inner art lover reconciled once and for all when Brandy and I attended Massanutten Regional Library’s Altered Books Contest and Gallery last Friday. The practice of altering gives old, perhaps worn out books — books on the very brink of disposal — a new life and purpose. Their tattered pages no longer have endure the flips and tugs of careless readers; that pressure is gone. All an altered book has to do anymore is sit somewhere and look awesome, interesting, beautiful. The newly rendered “book” even gets a new name, as I noticed at the library’s display. Truly, a rebirth.

altered book balloonsSo we browsed the altered books, submitted for competition by adults (ages 18 and older) and youngsters (ages 12 – 17). We saw the piece created by last year’s contest winner, Diane Landis, entitled In a Dark, Dark House — she’d used several discarded books to create a majestic castle. Some were quite useful… like Carol K. Smith’s Hooked on Books. She turned books into a coat rack with a frame. Some were really large, like From Tree to Book to Tree Again — a big tree sculpture made by several artists out of pages of books.

altered book tree loomNancy Dauer built this huge loom thing out of torn up and disassembled books (From Words to Yarns — ha ha!). And Ben Fraits somehow glued the pages of his books together so they became completely solid, then carved them like a block of wood.

altered book fyodor altered book castleAnna Thornbury and Andrew Shantz cleverly constructed literal interpretations of their books. For example, a wooden stake pierced the cover of the book Dracula; the book Titanic appeared to be split in half by an iceberg; Joan of Arc was partially charred. They called this collection A Novel Death.

altered book stakeThe kids’ entries were even more impressive. Explosion featured origami exploding from the center of a school textbook. For Bird’s Eye View, Chantel Pence made a diorama out of a book. And in Alice is Stuck in Wonderland, a barbie doll Alice protrudes — stuck, indeed — from the center of the book.

altered book alice fans altered book foldsbwAll this awesomely creative art work simply is not something you can do with your Kindle. Sorry. Soon the library will announce winners in both categories — adult and youth — the winning “books” will be on display April 14 – 19. Can’t wait to find out how this story ends! And stay tuned for more photos this week!

altered book hostsCopyright © 2012-14 · 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.

universal language: ten thousand villages.

store frontWhen I said to the kids, “Let’s go to Ten Thousand Villages today,” Cal’s brain churned behind his glassy blue eyes, and then he said, “I’m not sure we have time for all that.”

haha. I get it. I played along.

“Really? How long do you think it would take to visit ten thousand villages?”

“Oh, probably about twenty years.”

Then Bree-the-math-whiz chimed in: “Cal — that’s five hundred villages a year. That’s more than one a day. Unless the villages are really close together, you’d never visit ten thousand in twenty years.”

“Well, I don’t know how long it will take, but I didn’t pack a suitcase!”

“Me neither!”

Oh, brother. “Kids. Ten Thousand Villages is a store downtown. We’ve been in there before. It’s across from the library. That’s where we’re going. Sheesh!”

We met Brandy, Blake, and Ella there. It’s a little store, but it contains the whole world. I feel rich every time I step in there. Not in an American–capitalist–first-world way, but in an “I’m-connected-to-the-universe” way. That someone on another continent created something by hand that I, halfway around the world in a different culture and social system and economic reality, can also relate to and appreciate is pretty cool. That’s what art does; it transmits humanity. It’s a language everyone understands. Ten Thousand Villages has been cultivating this idea in Harrisonburg for twenty years. Yep — it’s their twentieth anniversary!

inside of gift shopThe brainchild of Wendy Lederach and Cleta Gingerich, what’s now known as Ten Thousand Villages began as International Impressions in September of 1993. It was located in Town Centre behind the mall, some of you might remember. The store moved to the Shenandoah Farmer’s Market and then the Dayton Farmer’s Market before changing its name to Ten Thousand Villages, and it’s been in its downtown location since 2011. Ten Thousand Villages is a global operation with hundreds of retail locations. They’ve been around for more than sixty years and sell fair trade products from about forty countries. It’s a way for the unemployed or under-employed folks in those nations to make a fair living.

teapot setThe Harrisonburg location has one executive director, three part-time employees, and several volunteers who work hard to keep overhead low and more money flowing back to the artisans who produce the merchandise sold in the store. They host Community Shopping days where a portion of their sales go directly to a selected charity. The organization has been named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by the Ethisphere Institute and Forbes Magazine for the sixth consecutive year, and was voted Best Downtown Shop (twice) and Best Shop That Sells Handcrafted Art (three times) by readers of the DNR! And it’s no surprise… it’s the ULTIMATE gift shop. You can find a gift for anyone in that place, and the money you spend is a gift to others. To test this theory, we asked each of the four kids with us to choose something they themselves would love to receive as a gift, and it took a good hour for everyone to decide on something. Here were their choices:

boy with chess setCal : chess set

bird paddle ballElla: birdie paddle ball

upcycled photo frameBlake: picture frame and box made of upcycled computer parts

girl using drumBree: this drum, or any of them, really

Personally, I want the recycled Coke can giraffes. And Brandy’s favorite was this cute birdie keychain!

bird key chain coke can giraffesIn addition to those awesome finds, the store carries coffee, teas, chocolate, olive oil, dried fruits, international sounds through Putumayo music, children’s clothes and toys made of organic cotton and hand knotted Oriental rugs. The handicrafts include ceramic pottery, kitchenware, planters, textiles like tablecloths and sari throws, musical instruments, games, home décor, large selection of jewelry and personal accessories, natural soaps and shea butter, Alpaca winter wear, paper goods and stationery, and lots more. I mean LOTS.

girl listening to music on headphones wall of necklaces girl using flutebags of coffeeSo, if you have someone to buy a gift for soon (including yourself), write yourself a little note to skip the generic stores and indulge in something unique and authentic that will make a lasting impression on the gift recipient AND the artist who made it. You’ll feel a whole lot richer.

business card holdersCopyright © 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.

city kids: a guide to summer fun in the burg.

I don’t know about you, but during the school year, I am BUSY. And my kids are busy. The end of the year arrives none too soon, but still shockingly fast, and I often find I’m… unprepared. Come Monday, June 10, I’m going to have that “oh-my-gosh-what-the-heck-am-I-gonna-do-with-the-kids-now” freak out. But this year, I’m determined to be prepared when they ask, “Mom, what are we going to do today?” So I’ve compiled this list — for myself, for you, for everyone who might find themselves in this predicament — of activities, camps and classes offered by Harrisonburg businesses and organizations to keep your kiddos busy allll summer long.

kids on a slip-n-slideSpitzer Art Center Children’s Workshops
Children ages 5 – 10 can sign up for one of many classes offered at the center. Register one week ahead for topics such as collage, drawing, water color, greeting cards, and more.

Larkin Arts Youth Summer Art Program
Kids ages 6 – 14 can attend week-long, 3-hour classes for $85. Classes include papier mache, sculpture, basket making, drawing, collage, photography, food art, painting, and a bunch of others.

larkin arts signArts Council of the Valley and Court Square Theater Summer Art Camp
These 3-hour, Monday to Friday classes cost $80 and include acting, characterization, script writing, choreography, improv, singing, dancing, poetry, filmmaking, comic creation, plus many more. Ages 6 – 15.

You Made It! also offers week-long camps, Monday to Friday for three hours, for $185. Ages 6 and up. Classes include clay, canvas painting, wheel throwing, pottery painting, fused glass, and several others.

kid in treeExplore More Children’s Museum offers 4-day classes, three hours per day, for ages 3 – 5th grade. Topics include LEGO engineering, Jedi training, Culinary Kids, Project Funway, Castles, Crowns and Catapults, Animal Adventures, and Construction Junction, to name a few.

kids hands holding LEGOSBlue Ridge Community College Learning Can Be Fun 
BRCC offers a zillion classes for grades K – 12, including art, music, dance, theater, culture, history, literature, nature, science, technology, sports and outdoor recreation. The classes run Monday – Friday for 3 hours each day, through the end of July.

James Madison University
JMU also boasts a large assortment of camps for summer kids, including baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, football, fencing and field hockey. They also offer band camp, diversity studies, poetry workshops, nonviolence seminars, and STEM classes.

Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation
In addition to spending some time at one of our many city parks, like Purcell, A Dream Come True, or Hillandale, your child can enjoy swimming at Westover Pool (open Monday through Saturday noon to 7pm and Sunday 1pm to 7pm) and a variety of classes. Some of their offerings include guitar, mountain biking, water adventure, adventure sports, rock climbing, rafting/kayaking, a ton of dance classes, archery, fishing, jump rope, skate boarding, and pretty much every major sport.

child in pool child at poolMassanutten Regional Library kicks off its annual Summer Reading Games, but you have to register THIS WEEK to get the free pass to the Massanutten Water Park. Other activities include Baseball Storytimes (Turks read to kids), Crafty Kids, LEGO Club, and Stitch and Knit, plus others.

RMH Wellness Center has full- or half-day camps on a weekly basis, for kids ages 4 – 11. Kids will learn about topics like dinosaurs, medieval times, the ocean, and space, plus participate in activities like swimming, rock climbing, indoor and outdoor games, playground time, crafts, fitness, and sports.

Library signYes, summer is about relaxing and decompressing after a stressful school year, but keeping your kids active will make them healthy, blah blah blah. Really, it’ll make them SLEEP WELL at night :) So sign up for something today! Consider it an investment in the sanity of your household. You’ll all be better for it.

child asleep in carCopyright © 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.

city noise no. 6: massanutten regional library with jmu steel drum band.

“You don’t look like hell.” Those were Brandy’s words to me when we met at the library on a recent Saturday. Ha.

That’s okay—it’s compliment enough for me. I’ll take it. Then she made me search her bangs for the one strand of hair that had flopped over her part. I couldn’t find it. I didn’t have my glasses.

On this day, we were at the Massanutten Regional Library to (check out forty pounds of books and) see the James Madison University Steel Drum Band perform. The event was organized by MRL’s Clare Eakin, who serves as the Youth Services Coordinator and has an awesome haircut. Brandy and I took the kids (this time we both had our kids with us) into the meeting room and sat in some chairs that had been arranged in a semicircle. The kids plopped on the floor, and as other kids arrived, they started making cute conversation, such as “What are your guys’s names?” “I like your shirt,” and “Smell my hand.”

The JMU Steel Drum Band, comprised of six female and four male students, is led by Michael Overman, who before starting the concert, gave the kids some steel drum history. He asked the group, “Where do steel drums come from?” and one kid shouted, “Trash cans!” (Actually, he explained, they are oil barrels.) Alas, he was really asking a geographical question, so he tried again: “Where in the world were steel drums first made?” Another kid answered, “A factory!” Ha! I LOVE that kid. (Really, it’s Trinidad.) Anyway, then he talked about the hammers and pounding and dents required to make the instrument, and he explained that the steel drum is the only instrument which, when you hit it, vibrates as a whole—the entire drum contributes to the sound.

Then he went back further, before the steel drum, and talked about the primitive instruments of an oppressed culture—how they were not allowed to possess instruments, so they made what they could, usually bamboo sticks they’d beat against various surfaces… but that they also used the sticks for “nefarious purposes,” often sharpening the ends of their “instruments” (you have to picture Michael’s air-quotes here), like Roger in Lord of the Flies. It’s all fun and dancing until someone sharpens his bamboo stick….

Anyway, the bamboo sticks evolved into biscuit tins and then, at the end of WWII, oil barrels left behind at the base in Trinidad. Cool, huh?

So they played several numbers. The first was called “Steel Drum Paradise,” and this adorable kid in an orange shirt started breakdancing. I LOVE that kid. The kids kept on wiggling through “Zombie Jamboree”–they must have happy zombies in Trinidad because the tune was NOT scary at all. Next was “Island in the Sun,” which Michael said would sound familiar if we were Harry Belafonte fans. Well, I had to research that, and sure enough, click here.

Everyone loved it when they played “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”–the kids danced, the grown-ups sang…. Brandy asked her daughter, “Would it embarrass you if I got up and started dancing?” Ella shook her head “no,” but inside she was, “HELL, YES.” Brandy refrained. At this point I was longing for flip flops and a drink that’s served in a coconut, and I thought if I ever have another, ahem, “big event” in my life, I’d hire these people so they could play “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” all night.

The fifth number was “Everybody Loves a Saturday Night” (yes), which we all sang once we learned the lyrics, and you know? You have to sing really loudly to hear yourself over those drums.

Between songs, the instructor let the children walk through and touch the drums, except for the one kid who was asleep. Who falls asleep during a steel drum performance? That kid. I LOVE that kid. Anyway, the kids had a chance to play the drums and interact with the musicians, which they loved.

Kudos to Clare Eakin for another great kids’ event at the library (we’ve also attended events involving horses and llamas). Click here to see more about children’s activities at the library. And many thanks to Michael Overman and his steel drum band for their educational performance. You can find a schedule of performances by the JMU percussion ensemble here. Be sure to catch them before the semester ends!