After the Visit, discourse strong
While there were several ideas voiced on how Manchester could improve in areas such as nightlife, Manchester had the potential to translate those thoughts into reality.
Ideas were floated around to make Manchester a much more walkable community by implementing a bike path along the river at the center of town, bolster the nightlife by having a night club, and give the town a community center and/or a Co-op where businesses, residents, and tourists can gather for the benefit of all among many other ideas.
One person who was very vocal was Erynn Hazlett, a resident of Arlington and constant visitor to Manchester on a daily basis.
"I am interested in it because over the years I have watched Manchester lose businesses and whenever I hear people talk about Manchester outlets I just think Manchester could be so much more than an outlet center," she said in a follow-up interview.
Hazlett just started her own event management and consulting business called My Opus Management, which connects and networks the New England region businesses to investment and business growing opportunities in the areas of fashion, food, family, and freedom.
"It started from helping a good friend of mine opening a (skate) board shop," she said. "I really enjoyed it and I was coming up with my vision, which generally tends to be fund-raising at this point. I also look at it as a way to improve the community in Bennington County, which is something I enjoy."
Hazlett said that Manchester should focus on being more than an outlet center and give residents and tourists the opportunity for a much more broad range of things to do. In the interview Hazlett said that Manchester could do things like lift the ban on skateboards to encourage youths to get outside, create a co-op to help local businesses, and build a community center for kids so they can have a place to go after school.
Hazlett is not alone in how she feels. Older generations also feel that Manchester could improve in the area of public awareness and what events are going on when, which can help residents and tourists alike have more of a reason to move around town.
"I think our town is vibrant during a Saturday afternoon on a weekend holiday, but at other times I don't see vibrancy," said Manchester resident Joe Madeira. "The issue I see is how to make it so this town can be vibrant."
One way to make it more vibrant is to embrace the arts the Manchester seems to have plenty of, and perhaps raising awareness of the arts can get people visiting the places they show or perform art.
"I think something like an "art-hop" would be great where you can have a visual art gallery like the first Saturday of every month and local artists can put their art on display," said Dorset resident William LaBerge. "I know Burlington does something like this so we can try and model it after what they do."
In the end, it comes down to what the community wants to do as a whole. It was a consensus during the Community Visit that people need to become more involved if they want to see change and growth, something that Hazlett has taken to heart.
Encouraged by the Community Visit, Hazlett and others in collaboration with Syncopia Sound, a company committed to working with individuals, schools and communities in innovative ways to bring the creativity and expression together, are hosting an event called Wham 2020.
Wham 2020 will begin on Wednesday, March 27 at 5:30 p.m. in the second floor of the Manchester Country Store to encourage members of the community to continue the conversations started at the Community Visit. To get more information or to get more involved contact Hazlett or Rick Nichols at Wham2020@rocketmail.com or visit syncopia.org/wham-2020.
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