Twenty seven, I am learning, is both an incredible yet extremely odd age, as I struggle to reconcile everything I know with everything I want to do. While I’m much more aware of the importance of small business and local events to a community, I still find myself sitting and writing this in the Chapters Starbucks in Ancaster. Granted, this may have more to do with my impeccable timing and proactiveness (sarcasm), but it is still reflective of what I encounter on a daily basis.
I write for a publication whose goal is to: “explore what motivates, celebrates, educates, entertains, and excites the people in this community.” Hopefully I’ve contributed to this, but six articles in, I find myself questioning what community means to me, or rather, my part within it. Identifying, finding my place, my role, and how I can contribute, is an ongoing struggle. While I grew up in Brantford, I moved to Waterloo for university and grounded myself there for almost six, going on seven years. The years where I defined who I am as a person and really learned about myself, it was not in this place. While I’ve been back in Brantford more than a year, I constantly struggle with the feeling that since I am not a small business owner and have no children or significant other, my role in the community feels fairly inconsequential.
At my core, I am simply a consumer in our community. I work out of town, leaving early and getting in late at night, which combined with the social life of a single girl, I often feel the only way I have to give back is through donations and supporting local business and events. My friends and I mostly go out of town for social events, to the point I now ask myself what could keep us here, to ensure we’re supporting the community we live in. We’re at the awkward age where the festivals which come to town are often family-oriented or for teenagers.
That said, I feel as though I’m now seeing a glimmer of hope for a blooming Brantfordian culture. When I take a look back through the past year to see what I stayed in town for, there were events like the Brantford Comedy Festival, the Pauly Shore live comedy show, Tweetstock, and most recently, the Grandelicious Food and Wine Show, which not only kept me in town, but brought people from other towns to Brantford. These kinds of events are crucial to defining our community as an exciting place to be and bringing people to town. I am old enough to remember, just vaguely, the time when Brantford’s downtown was still booming with business and the negative connotations associated with it didn’t exist, at least not that I knew of. Therefore, it especially excites me now as I witness the evolution of the downtown beginning to come full circle. Brantford is finally growing its own culture so people such as myself, of which I am sure there are many, will opt to stay in town rather than go elsewhere.
As I look towards the rest of the year ahead, the events planned in town are already exciting me. For example Brantford Barks, and the continuance of the Comedy Festival, it makes my mind reel at all the further possibilities, the things I currently leave town for but one day soon may not need to. A Total Woman’s Show, for example, which every year I go to in Toronto or Kitchener/Waterloo, or a multi-cultural street festival which highlights the beauty of all the cultures that make up our community, which Waterloo does so wonderfully. Furthermore, while we have some wonderful quaint cafes on the Grand River in Paris, I’ve always wondered why we haven’t capitalized on the Grand River here in Brantford. There are so many wonderful opportunities, and it feels like the time has come to take advantage of them. With the combination of opportunity, the audience, and having ambitious entrepreneurial types in town to finally make a concept a reality, Brantford is finally growing beyond simply a manufacturing town, in which people leave but rarely come to, in my experience. The impact of staying in town has both economic and social effects which are starting to snowball, and while perhaps only a consumer who takes part, it’s something I am proud to be contributing to as we all grow both ourselves, and the community, together.