I’ve worked in several towns and cities over the course of my nineteen year career in community development. What is happening now in my beloved Erie, the city “fighting back” with positive messages to the masses via social media, reminds me of some of the past attention the national media placed on one of “my towns”.
My first experience was in Kane, PA, a borough of about 4100 people in the Allegheny National Forest area of McKean County. A bat, specifically the Indiana Bat, apparently made it’s way into the forest causing logging to halt. It was devastating to the community for many logging was their livelihood. The town and surrounding area saw strangers coming in and protesting, chaining themselves to trees, to entrances of businesses in the industry. Tree huggers. It was something to witness. Crazy. The community fought back, t-shirts stating Hug A Logger, You’ll Never Go Back to Trees were created and worn all around. Signs in storefront windows went up with the same message, and others too. Like the one comparing the use of toilet paper and a bat. Eventually the bat issue “went away” and logging in the ANF resumed. And all was right with the world.
The next instance involved chairs and the 4th of July in the borough of Canonsburg. You see the people in that area view the 4th of July holiday like Christmas. Seriously! They have a massive parade that has been tradition for over 50 years. What happens, or happened, days before the parade is the story and one that was picked up by the Associated Press. You see, folks would claim their parade watching spot by placing chairs along the route days before the 4th. This was also tradition. Many have been claiming the same spot for years. So we thought, let’s have some fun with this. We created a contest and asked folks to decorate their chairs. It was awesome! Really! People got so creative! Oh, and I might mention the grand marshal of the parade that year was Canonsburg’s own Bobby Vinton. The Polish Prince. So fun! Anyway, our story of chairs went vital, the AP featured images on their website for days leading up to the holiday. The parade went off without a hitch, and all was right with the world. Until the powers that be decided the chairs, which had been placed days prior to the parade for YEARS, was now a hazard. I mean, we even had Chair Watch – documenting the day the first chair was placed! The borough was not going to allow this tradition to continue. A Save The Chairs campaign started, a facebook page was created, people showed up at the borough council meetings with chairs and signs in protest to allow their long standing tradition to continue. Unfortunately, the community lost that battle. However the 4th of July celebration continues in Canonsburg as it always will. Just not with chairs lining the parade route days before. You win some, you loose some.
So now, here we are in Erie, PA getting the attention of mass media because of the Presidential election results. And Erie County turning “red”. We are being followed for the President’s stance on the economy, and what that will mean not only to the nation but our region. The images that have been shared on national television and via the internet are probably some of the worst images of our community. What we are saying now with #MyErie is there is SO much beauty here. There is promise. There is development. There is investment. Please share THAT story of our fine city with the world. Yes, we have issues. Yes, we have problems. We are not blind to that. And not everyone will agree with me. BUT I choose to focus on the positive. If everyone focused on the negative all the freakin time, what a sad sad place it would be, right??? So I’m asking you #MyErie friends, to keep the campaign going. We have their attention. Show the world why this place is your home. Tweet it, post it on FB. Use the hashtag #MyErie and tag @cbsnews and @jamieyuccus.
I will proudly wear the shirt. I am a proud resident of #MyErie. Stay tuned.