Monday, May 23, 2016

Party On, Columbia!

This year's Wine in the Woods was a little bit less Brigadoon and a little more Okefenokee Swamp. I felt a little sad as I made my way downtown to volunteer at the Inner Arbor Trust booth. In my imagination I saw a sparsely attended event, with locals scared off by the dismal weather. I wasn't sure there'd be anyone there at all to stop by and chat about Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods.

I was wrong.

You cannot stop these people from their annual Spring Rite. They were there with their camp chairs, listening to music. They strolled on muddy paths in rain ponchos, munching on turkey legs. They waited in line for a taste of wine and again for funnel cake. It was pretty amazing.

People stepped into our tent, out of the drizzle, to look at drawings of the park. Some had heard of it. Some hadn't. Everyone knew about Merriweather, many knew about the renovations there. Once we started talking, they always had good questions. "What will the pathways be made of?" "Will bikes be permitted on the paths?" "What different ways will the Chrysalis be used?"

My personal favorite were the young couple who came in, with great enthusiasm, asking:

"Can you tell me more about the giant floating picnic table?"

They lived in Long Reach, they said, and liked it. Before that they had lived in Oakland Mills and really liked that, too.

"I've really gotten a kick out of everything I've learned about the park so far."

Perhaps people who are willing to come out in the rain are the sort of people who are predisposed to have a good time. Add to that the people who are willing to stick their heads into a tent with drawings and plans of a park in progress as being, at the very least, open-minded. There was definitely no Whine in the Woods where we were.

Every year more people learn about the park. It may be a long, slow process of evangelism, but it's genuine. And it's taking root.

One feature of the new park that came up several times during the afternoon: pervious pathways. A rainy day schlogging through the mud really puts the need for that at the forefront of one's mind. Inner Arbor Trust President and CEO Michael McCall talked about how much impact the weekend's visitors would have, tromping over the grounds in the rain. It's clear that "pervious pathways" aren't just a trendy environmental buzzword, but will have a significant positive impact on the natural environment in the park.

As I walked back to my car, I saw three women walking along, talking companionably. They each rolled along their WITW essentials: camp chair, picnic cooler, tote bag. At one driveway they stopped, and I heard them exchange goodbyes.

"Thank you so much. And thanks for including me in your birthday celebration. It was wonderful."

If that isn't #awesomeColumbia, I don't know what is. Not only can we come out in the rain for Wine in the Woods, but we can make it a party, too.

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