Our own backyard…

Most New Yorkers have never taken a trip to the Statue of Liberty.

Most residents of Las Vegas never get close to the strip.

Natural, I guess. We tend to overlook things in our own backyard. We could visit any old time.

I have learned a good deal about our community since I began working for the City of Wichita Falls, and then for the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. One of my challenges has been to communicate more effectively about what is going on in Wichita Falls. Although there are a myriad of events and attractions here which visitors marvel at, convincing our own our citizens to support them seems a hard-sell.

There is always something happening in our city. Our 50 Plus Zone at the Library is one of the most active in Texas. We have symphonies, plays, ballet, exhibits and guest lectures. Each month of the year has a signature event. And we can accommodate all tastes, from rodeos to art openings; we are diverse. One weekend we are all Irish at the downtown St. Patrick’s day festival. MPEC has great dog shows, and we have free summertime entertainment called “Live at the Lake.” In May we celebrate all that is Cajun in Downtown with a great feed. We have had distinguished speakers grace our stages such as Former Secretary of State Condi Rice, Newt Gingrich and Governor Mike Huckabee. Our Christmas display during the holidays is second to none.

The Kemp Center for the Arts has an amazing number of classes and openings. In fact, most of our groups do a great job providing programs, just not enough money to publicize them well.

If you have NOT been to the Museum of North Texas History on Indiana Street, you are missing a great slice of history. Another source is the Heritage Society, and members have a lot of fun traveling to surrounding areas looking at historic homes and sites.

MSU is a great resource for events, plays, lectures and continuing education. Their theatre productions and art openings are excellent! Backdoor Theatre and the Wichita Theatre both satisfy divergent appetites.

Have you used our trails? The Wee-Chi-Tah Trail is considered one of the best off-road trails in Texas, and what park is prettier than Lucy Park with its lush trees? Have you been to the River Bend Nature Center?

How rare it is to see a World War I plane fly! There are very few left and we have one.

And sports! It seems there are softball fields all over town. Of course high school and college football and basketball are exciting and worth attending.

Which brings me to my real point.

Has this community been good to you? Has it provided a job, a safe place to raise kids and parks to play in? Did it educate your kids?  How is your quality of life different because you didn’t spend it in Detroit? Or Brooklyn?  Do we owe this city anything in return?

I argue that we must protect the assets we have. That means supporting attendance at community events. It means becoming involved as a volunteer, a fan or a financial supporter. Everyone can do something, even if it just attending Town Hall Meetings to offer new ideas. It means supporting Sheppard Air Force Base in word and deed.

There are a great number of community boards and commissions that need your help. We needs people to serve on park boards or to keep Wichita Falls Beautiful. We need volunteers for the many non-profits scraping by. Rather than complaining about the slow economy, what about offering yourself as a volunteer to help stretch their dollars farther?

What can you bring to the Wichita Falls table? How can you be a part of the success of our activities? We must fill our own stadiums and events before we look beyond to new possibilities.  After our hometown events are sold out we can expand our horizons.

This city has you. That’s all. In fact the cityis you. Together, we are the ones who will make Wichita Falls prosper or fail.  If you need inspiration, go to www.choosewichitafalls.com and look at the pages and pages of events and support one today!