Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ignorance Is NOT Bliss

I was going to write a blog on the lack of communication in Norristown, but I realize it's so big of an ongoing problem, I'm going to have to approach in steps. So today, installment #1.

The only reason I went to last Saturday's Mexican Independence Day Festival was that I attended a Norristown Nudge meeting at Coffee Talk on West Marshall that morning. Otherwise I wouldn't have known about the festival at all. When I got home and posted to Facebook about the amazing chicken quesadillas I had, people posted back saying they wished they'd known--they would have gone, too. Not just Norristown residents, but friends from other surrounding communities.

So why was this festival such a secret? Why no publicity? If there's one thing Norristown does well, it's throw a party. Our festivals could go a long way to changing the bad opinions of our town, toward bringing in outsiders, and toward uniting us as a community.

Council claims they post everything on their website, but this weekend, for instance, while they list Riverfest, they don't list the other festival that's taking place at Elmwood Park. The first I heard about that was an announcment at the Council Meeting Tuesday night. Like West Marshall residents last week, no one in the Elmwood Park area (including me) seems to know anything about it. It would be nice to be able to plan for things like parking and extra noise. Then again, maybe no one will come because it's a secret.

In the interest of communicating, our first RIVERFEST will be held this Saturday at Riverfront Park, 1 Haws Avenue, from 11 am to 4 pm. Kids activities, Dragon Boat Rides and Races, food, music, etc. You may not hear this anywhere else, so spread the news.

Here are some excerpts from a Norristown Nudge Facebook posting. I can't say it better than they did:

On Saturday, September 14th, West Marshall Street was the scene of a wonderful festival commemorating Mexican Independence Day. Unfortunately, most of the non-Latino community, including some long time West Marshall merchants, had no idea this was happening until Friday, September 13th, when "no parking" and street closure signs were posted along the street. Some claim they knew nothing of the activity until the actual day of the festival.

Calling this a profound lack of communication is like saying the Mojave Desert gets a little warm at times.

A festival of this size was not approved and pulled together in a day or two. The wheels had to have been turning for at least several weeks prior to the festival. Once the permit was issued by the municipality we feel the festival organizers had an obligation to inform ALL the merchants on West Marshall Street of the impending activity. In fact, the two gentlemen who staff the West Marshall State Store claim this has happened on more than one occasion.

This was not a backyard soiree or a vacant lot carnival. It was a decent-sized affair that impacted parking, transit, and in some cases, economics. More courtesy should have been extended.

Some blame must be leveled at the Municipality as well. After issuing the permit they should have insisted on some forms of timely advertising, be it banners, posters, or even word of mouth. Their diligence regarding such matters is often mercurial or offhand at best. They, along with the festival organizers, will simply have to do better.
. . .

This was a wonderful, colorful, vibrant , festive affair with authentically amazing cuisine and great music--a cultural, sensory overload. Did the municipality reach out to other communities, inviting them to partake in the festivities? Most local and Philly papers have Weekend Happenings sections. Were blurbs placed in any of them? Were there any posters placed on supermarket bulletin boards?? If so, no one we know saw them. We do know Norristown Patch posted something, 2 hours prior to the start of the festival. One of our Nudge members actually met her dentist there. He and his family happened on it by accident. They loved it. They live on the Main Line.

Enticing outsiders to experience little gems like this festival should be a priority of the Municipality. This is how we change the perception that keeps non-residents away. This is how baby steps become leaps towards sustainable revitalization.

If Norristown is going to proclaim and profess strength in diversity, then it's going to have to beat its drum just a little louder.

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