We return to our Create Community series this week with the topic of Doing Something FUN!! If you missed our previous posts, check them out here:
The concept of doing something fun seems so easy but when you are new to an area (or have been doing the same thing for a decade) in your town, it might feel a little harder. And of course, the concept of fun is certainly subjective. The writer Emily St. John Mendel noted, “Edmund Wilson once wrote that no two people ever read the same book and I’ve come to believe that no two people ever live in the same city.”
Think about how cities have branded themselves (usually with the strategies of companies to highlight the best of what the town has to offer). You know a few of them: Pure Michigan has become the alluring slogan for all the lakefront views all over Michigan. And you know the one from Vegas: “What happens here stays here.” If you live in one of these, you might not agree or even like these slogans, but they have certainly drawn people to both of these examples.
Warnick discovered in her research that a town is what you think it is. Even if it isn’t as glamorous as the bigger/better town next door, you can rebrand your town even if only in your own mind. She found a study done in 2008 by Gallup and the nonprofit Knight foundation called “Soul of the Community.” They talked to adults in 26 cities to determine how emotionally attached they were to their communities and why they felt that way. Polling was done in cities of varying sizes from one million down to less than 20,000.
What their study found was very interesting. It wasn’t the good schools, affordable housing and safety (what most realtors use to sell you a new home) that created the strong sense of place attachment. The three qualities that created the strongest sense of place attachment and place satisfaction? Social offerings, aesthetics and openness. When citizens feel like there are lots of things to do, it is beautiful to look at and welcomes all kinds of people, they are deeply attached to it. Secondly, the more attached they were to their cities, the better the city did economically.
So, if you have things in your town you enjoy doing (maybe even on a regular basis), it creates a sense of attachment to where you live. If you don’t love where you live, consider investigating some new things in your town that you haven’t experienced before. Maybe use Google to help you identify what are your town’s strengths. Not every town is good at everything, but your town is certainly good at something. Make it your mission to find out what they are.
Warnick admittedly is not a sports fan. At all. But someone suggested to her she attend the local university football game. I loved her thoughts on this, “In all these ways–intense loyalty, the group identity, the sense of ownership–sports fandom is oddly reminiscent of place attachment…This experiment helped me see the very real link between rooting for your hometown sports team and rooting for your hometown…They do it because they love their city and the team’s victory is the city’s victory.”
Lastly, if you are still struggling to find things to do, create your own. Find a local park and find a new routine there. Pack a lunch. Read a book. Enjoy a hike. Try one new local restaurant this month. Maybe even consider attending the local football game. Ultimately, your place attachment has everything to do with the positive memories you have in your town. So do something fun!
- Try to make a list of 10 local sites, historic landmarks, tourist attractions, parks, museums, statues and events. Use Google or even Facebook to help you find some in your area if you need help.
- Inquire about any local festivals as they offer a great sense of community pride. When you are shopping local, ask the shop owners if they are aware of special events. Often they have a better awareness of the goings-on in your area.
- Even if you are still struggling, do what you love where you live. Runner? Find a local half-marathon. Home chef? See if any of the local shops offer cooking classes. Book worm? See if the book store offers book club and author events.
Should you decide to try a few new things, please use #createmycommunity so we can see what new activities you are enjoying!