Sunday, July 23, 2017

They Came from Outer Space

No, they didn't. But they may have come from out of town.

Last night was the debut of the Chrysalis as a commercial venue, with a concert by Leftover Salmon and Greensky Bluegrass. No, I wasn't there. These are all fan photos gleaned from Twitter.

In order for the Chrysalis to thrive as a venue, it must strike just the right balance between free local events such as the Columbia Orchestra Pops Concert and events like this one, with paying customers. The positive comments I read from fans last night told a story of excitement about how cool this structure is, and the thrill of being present at the beginning of things.

I think it's important to remember that Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods, while first and foremost a community gathering place for Columbia/Howard County, is also meant to be a regional player in drawing people from other places. If you've ever driven out of your way to see a concert, a play, or attend a festival, you know what I mean.

Playing host to people from out of town is certainly something that Merriweather has been doing for quite some time. In this era where everyone has GPS on their phone and most stores have websites that will help you locate them, it should be pretty easy for our out of town guests to find a place to get that needed sunscreen or a restaurant for a quick bite to eat pre-concert.

But since so much of Columbia is off the beaten path, how do we encourage visitors to best enjoy their time here? How do we make such a good impression that they'll want to come again? Aside from the fact that it's just a good thing to want to encourage people to have a good time in Columbia, there's also the economic motivation of the money that these folks will spend supporting local businesses.

In addition, the success of Downtown Development hinges on connecting the Columbia Experience with people who want to be a part of it. They may not know that yet. So, every time they visit, we had better be ready to put our best foot forward. The Rouse Company had the Visitor Center. Now that Columbia is less of a plan on a drawing board and more of a reality, we are the Visitor Center. Do we want people to get excited about Columbia and want to live here? Do we want them to buy one of those original Columbia homes and update it? Do we want them to send their kids to Columbia schools, help support the transformations of the older Village Centers?

You bet we do.

It's good for Columbia, it's good for Howard County, and it's good for all the friends we haven't met yet.

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