Something you frequently hear is that there’s nothing to do in small towns. It is, I suppose, an understandable sentiment when it comes from someone in a larger centre, whose knowledge of small towns is limited, and who picture places where the sidewalk rolls up in the late afternoon and it’s nothing but crickets and tumbleweeds after that.
What’s less understandable is when you hear small town residents say the same thing about their own communities. I’m writing this during a break from putting together this week’s “Local News Briefs” column; so far I’ve written about upcoming events in Clinton and Spences Bridge, and I need to take a deep breath and clear my head before moving on to the next community, because my desk is still covered in pieces of paper detailing myriad activities that are on the horizon, and I don’t want to miss anything.
I know the Christmas season is a busy one, especially as we all play catch-up after two Christmases that were heavily impacted by the COVID pandemic; things will be considerably more quiet after Dec. 25. Even then, however, there will be no shortage of activities and events for people of all ages, whether it’s sports leagues starting up, drop-in crafting sessions, live theatre, after-school activities, fitness classes, dance, and much more.
When I hear a resident in one of our communities complain that “there’s nothing to do,” I suspect that what they mean is “there’s nothing to do that interests me.” I get it. Take theatre, for example. I’ll be directing the next Winding Rivers Arts & Performance Society production, scheduled for spring 2023, and I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get stuck in, especially after such a long break between plays. (The last one, in case you’ve forgotten, was the Agatha Christie mystery A Murder is Announced, way back in spring 2020, which had barely finished the final performance before everything shut down because of COVID-19. Had we decided to hold the performances only one week later, then all our hard work would have been for naught.)
However, I realize that theatre isn’t for everyone, and that’s fine. Likewise crafting, and dance, and choir. It would be a boring old world if we all liked the same things, and what floats one person’s boat leaves another person cold. The point, though, is not to make blanket statements about there be nothing to do, when the evidence to the contrary is all around you.
And if there’s really nothing to do that interests you, and you’d like to see that change, then the answer is simple: change it. Would you love to see a book club start up, and be a part of that? Start a book club. Interested in woodworking, or sewing, or cooking, or [insert activity here] workshops or classes? Offer to run one yourself (if you’re able to), or put out a call to see if an organization or group or person in your community is interested. The Ashcroft HUB recently put out a call for crafters who would be interested in running Christmas craft sessions for kids and adults, and voila: there are seven workshops taking place over the next three weeks. Sometimes it really is just that easy.
Looking for things to do that don’t involve taking part yourself? No problem! Find out when local kids (either as part of a league or part of a school team) are playing a home game or tournament, and go out to cheer them on; they’ll truly appreciate the support. Go to a concert, or karaoke night, or dance recital, and just sit back and enjoy. Have a night out at the theatre, go to the art show, drop by the Legion, find out if there’s a fundraiser dinner coming up and then go to it. Everyone involved will welcome you with open arms, because the more who show up, the merrier.
Nothing to do in small towns? Nonsense. All you need to do is look.