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It’s time to spread our wings

Hey, all you big-city folks, reading this on the Internet. You need a serious attitude adjustment. Whoever thought life in rural America was quiet and uneventful clearly has never spent much time in Marion County.

Find all the evidence you need by counting down the past few weekends: Octoberfest, Art and Music Stroll, Old Settlers’ Day, Art in the Park, Arts and Craft Fair. The list goes on. And those were just the headliners. Every weekend something is going on, and much of the goings-on seem to focus on a uniquely quaint combination of artistic creativity and community history.

From time to time, we bemoan the loss of big retailers and plead, as we should, to bring in new business. But the truth of the matter is, Marion County, like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, is in the middle of a metamorphosis. Blessed with lakes, classic architecture, and a wide array of arts, crafts, and antique businesses, we’re becoming, if we aren’t already, a first-class destination for tourists and others.

We often criticize government for not recognizing the obvious, but in this case, government has responded. After a shaky start, in which separate development interests in the county often seemed at odds, Teresa Huffman has grown from being a secretary thrust into a developer’s role into someone who seems to see the future and is working to promote it.

Not only has she taken an active role, along with community treasures like Jeanice Thomas and Jan Davis, in organizing and promoting events. She also has arranged for first-rate seminars on how local residents can start, develop, and promote businesses that fit this vision for the future.

Although we think the county still talks a bit too much about building new buildings instead of restoring old ones, Dan Holub in particular has gone out of his way to see that such places as the Bowron Building at least have a chance.

Having a clear vision of the future is very often the difference between making it to that future and simply flailing around in the present and past. What else does Marion County need to fulfill its potential?

How about a destination restaurant — not just a convenient place to grab lunch, but somewhere with real tablecloths and atmosphere that makes you want to drive an hour just to enjoy the evening out?

We also need places for visitors to stay —rental cabins at the County Lake, for example — and perhaps even greater use of our excellent facilities for Chautauquas, dinner theaters, and murder mysteries. And we need, as Marion’s PRIDE committee recently found, to enhance our already exceptional public facilities with such things as riverside bike and hiking paths.

The 21st century is the century of ideas. The more we have, the better we’ll do. Share yours about what would help Marion County complete its metamorphosis. Even if it’s just a pipe dream, drop us a note about what you would like to see, and we’ll try to start a dialogue about where we go from here.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Oct. 12, 2011

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