It's a diverse community, number one; families who can trace their roots in the area back over many generations co-exist with relative newcomers from a remarkably wide range of places. Whether drawn here or content to stay here because of the scenic beauty, the opportunities for outdoor recreation, or an employment situation, the cross-cultural mix of people, places to go and things to do is remarkable for a town of its size, supplemented by the smaller communities around it.
But there is one gaping hole in that otherwise pleasant mosaic that is worth the attention of somebody who may have a vested interest in the town's long-range future. It's not a crisis, and it's not a sudden development. It's one that the town can probably live with for years to come, but especially as a "community visit" is being planned by the Vermont Council on Rural Development draws near, it may be one worth wondering about. We're talking about the relative lack of night life and the demographic doughnut caused by the relative absence of 20 and 30 somethings in the population mix.
Clearly Manchester is a nice place to raise kids and for children to grow up in. It's relatively safe, and local schools are hardly poster children for what may ail U.S. education elsewhere. We have a nice public recreation park as well. Likewise, it's a pretty good place to not only be a parent, but a nice place to come to later in life. There are multiple arts venues, opportunities for community involvement and speaker events that provide intellectual stimulus.
But there doesn't seem to be remotely as much for those in-between their own coming of age and starting their own families. Walk down Main Street - or any street in town after dark, and you could be forgiven for wondering where everyone goes after work.
What the town needs is some kind of night time hang out spot - someplace that offers food and drink and perhaps some entertainment - maybe even some dancing, OMG - where youngsters have a chance to meet and mingle. Downtown, that is. More than one would be even better.
Persuading someone to take a chance on opening such a venue that would remind an older generation of the good old days of The Five Flies won't be easy.
Restaurants and nightclubs are treacherous businesses. But it's really striking when you visit other communities - like Burlington, or Saratoga, N.Y., and see scores of youngsters roaming the streets after dark. They bring a dynamism and a vitality to an area. They bring business opportunities as well.
One built-in way to jump start that process would be to have a college campus in town or nearby, but that seems to be a longshot at best. So some other way needs to be found to jump start that. It's a niche waiting to be filled. Hopefully someone will fill it, or maybe the "Community Visit" will yield up an answer.