Russ Kent: When a community is prideful, it shows

I spent Monday in Bellville, working out of the office of The Bellville Star.

Bellville is a nice community. Clear Fork High School has a history of sporting success, there are some nice restaurants in the community, but for me, my remembrance of Bellville was driving through it on the way to the canoe liveries.

But the community is more than that. The downtown area is quaint, populated with small shops, stores and places to eat. And every time I go there to work, there are pedestrians walking up and down the streets.

That’s something I don’t see when I look out my work window in Galion.

Let me rephrase. In the morning and at lunch when the eateries in Galion are open, there are people out and about. On some mornings, like today, I keep the door open by my desk (don’t tell the boss, because the AC is still running) so I can hear the sights and sounds of people out and about.

But after 3 p.m. on most afternoons, the foot traffic is pretty much nil.

There are people in Galion are trying to change that. Things are moving in the right direction.

I like the idea of people sitting out front and enjoying a bite to eat at Payne’s or having a drink at 1803 Taproom. In fact I love it. If something like that draws folks to the downtown area in the evening, I’m all for it.

The art walk two does that. The weekend of the last walk there was music in the gazebo on the square that Saturday afternoon. There weren’t a ton of folks in the area, but at least it didn’t look like a ghost town. Maybe if the art walk organizers and those who were putting on the music at the square, it could be a bigger party.

The 1803 Taproom brings in visiting food trailers every so often so those who imbibe can have a bite to eat on occasion, too … after 5 p.m.

I’ve heard complaints about the outdoor dining areas. They say they don’t blend with the rest of the decor uptown. That’s not a big deal to me.

We need to try s0me new things to breathe some life into this community.

The Bellville Street Fair is this week. I’ve never been to it. I’ve heard about it … a lot! They say thousands of former residents return to the village that weekend to do a little eating and a lot of visiting.

The fair starts Wednesday. They started setting up for it Monday morning, which means much of the downtown area is closed to vehicle traffic. When I got to Bellville at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, the road closures were already in effect. By the time I left the office at 5:30, I had a much better understanding of why that community is so proud of it’s street fair.

Every parking spot on the main drag was filled with a food vendor or a game trailer or something. Most of the alleys and parking lots a block either way from the main drag were filled with more concessions or carnival rides. Very impressive.

Their festival is a source of community pride.

Galion’s sense of pride isn’t what it once was. But folks are trying to change that.

Galion’s Pickle Run Festival was a huge point of pride to the Galion community 20 years ago. But it faded away. Now Sarah Capretta and her crew of hard-working volunteers have revived it.

The first year was OK. Last year’s was a big, huge improvement and attendance improved by leaps and bounds. I watched the parade on the final day of this year’s festival, and when I walked through Heise Park after the parade, I was astounded and pretty prideful. That’s more folks in the same area, at the same time, than I’ve seen in years.

And it wasn’t just locals.A lot of former Galion residents came back to partake in Pickle Run.

Right now, folks are gearing up for Galion’s Oktoberfest at the end of this month. The downtown area will be filled with vendors and food stands and carnival rides and music. This is still a pretty big event in the community thanks to Kent Gimbel and company. And this, too, is a way to show off our community. And there is a lot of hard work being done with that goal in mind.

The Come Home to Galion event is the first weekend of December and volunteers are doing their best to get former residents to do just that. To come home to Galion and celebrate their community, visit with friends, neighbors and relatives to have a good time. That’s a third big event in Galion that volunteers are pushing to show off their community.

And this weekend more than 15,000 cross country runners and fans will invade Amann and Amick Reservoirs for the Galion Cross Country Festival. Now, if only we could detour traffic or something so they’d all have to come into the city via Harding Way …

There are good things happening in Galion, and we should be celebrating the community we live in.

I’m not one who gets out a lot. I’m trying to change that. I have lived in Galion for much of my life. But for the past 20 years, I worked or lived in different communities, so I spent very little time doing anything in this community except visiting friends and relatives and sleeping.

But now I’m back in the community eye. And I see what people in this community are doing to make it better, to make it more fun. And those efforts are paying off.

I’m proud to say I’m from Galion. I’m making an effort to be more involved in community affairs.

I hope others will do the same.

Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer, Bellville Star and Morrow County Sentinel. Email him at rkent@civitasmedia with comments or story ideas.