Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Congratulations to First Citizen Florence Wager!

I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this year’s First Citizen award than Florence Wager, and it was a pleasure to be part of the large entourage promoting her selection. Flossie’s tireless support of Parks and Recreation, her unparalleled advocacy for community livability, and her generous spirit and humor have made a profound difference in this place we call home. I’ve known Flossie for nearly a decade and have had the pleasure of spending a lot of personal time with her – she has influenced me through her example and by her wisdom. I’ve learned so much from her — not just about how to preserve and protect our natural environment, but also how to listen, collaborate and advocate. Flossie, you’re indeed an inspiration to us all — thank you for your hard work and boundless energy.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Community Call-to-Action: Fourth of July Celebration and Fireworks

Our family moved to Vancouver in June of 1980, into the Cherry Wood Park Apartments in the Minnehaha neighborhood. I was nine years old at the time, so most of the details are pretty blurry. I do remember a few things -- riding bikes with my brother, kicking up ash from the recent Mount St. Helens eruption, and how important that new contraption, the microwave, was to my mom.

There's one event, though, that stands out quite vividly: the first Fourth of July celebration in our new community. In the days leading up to the Fourth, we bought and lit off as many firecrackers as our weekly ‘allowance’ would allow. Usually, on the Fourth our father would take us to the fireworks stand and with unbridled excitement (Dad too), we’d buy a smattering of fancy fireworks to set off shortly after sunset. This Fourth of July, though, turned out to be different -- and much more exciting.

Late-afternoon on the Fourth, we jumped into the 1979 Pontiac Grand Prix and went for a drive. Dad let on that we weren’t going to buy fireworks, but instead were going to watch somebody else’s. After a short drive, we parked, dropped our blankets and food in an open spot on the grass and watched the goings-on. I'd never seen such a huge celebration!

As the sun set and darkness filled in, Dad pointed toward the sky and told us to watch for the fireworks. I was a bit confused. There were people all around and I couldn’t figure out why and where in the grass the fireworks would be set off. Then suddenly the sky lit up like it was on fire, followed by deep, explosive booms. It took a moment for me to realize that these were the fireworks Dad said to look for. What in the world! I was absolutely awestruck by the size, the height, the noise, and the colors. I’m certain my mouth was open the entire time.

That Fourth of July in 1980 was an incredible experience for me, and I suspect for thousands of other children and families. Over the subsequent 29 years to today, I have missed only a handful of celebrations. And every single time, I had a hollow feeling about missing them. Something wasn’t quite right – the summer just wasn’t the same.

With the settlement of Fort Vancouver by the Hudson’s Bay Company, our community is considered the ‘birthplace’ of the Pacific Northwest. But it's the Fort Vancouver Fourth of July Celebration and Fireworks that put Vancouver, Washington, on the radar screen of the entire United States of America. It's this celebration which has created cherished memories for our families, our children, our neighbors and our friends. More than any other single activity in our community, it is this event that is the most beloved.

Yet, now it is gone.

Indeed, we are now facing nearly unprecedented hardship and difficult times. But that simply means that now, more than ever, our community needs a community Fourth of July Celebration. We might need to make it smaller--we might need to make more personal contributions. But we need to feel good about what has been and what can be. The celebration of our country’s independence, in the wonderful tradition that we have become accustomed to, can be a reminder that we will persevere.

This event is Vancouver and we are Vancouver.

Let’s stand together, families, businesses and non-profits to restore our celebration and create those fond memories for our children.