And to Think That I Saw it on Tyler Street
If you visited Tyler Street last Saturday, (August 26), chances are you noticed something rather extraordinary: throngs of people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds enjoying their neighborhood and spending carefree time out of their cars and away from their televisions and internet (unless of course it was to share the fun they were having online). If you were not able to make it to the Transformation Day party on the block between Smith Street and Courtland Place, I'll offer a non-exhaustive summary of the day's highlights:
Live music. Art. Mini golf. Fresh produce. Barbecue. Latin cuisine. Biergarten. Kids' games. Dancing. Walking. Biking. Murals. Ice cream. Sunshine.
Pittsfielders stepped up and came out to help make the day a reality, which had been grown from a vision that began back in the spring. I was amazed at the ingenuity, spontaneity, and resourcefulness of the coordinators and volunteers who worked all summer, and especially the week leading up to Transformation Day. Even more than I learned about the logistics of getting such an event off the ground, I learned about how much we as volunteers and coordinators could rely on each other and empower each other to get a task done, whether that be collecting and storing fifty wooden pallets in one night, or finding neighbors happy to donate supplies or equipment at seemingly the last minute.
One of the biggest lessons I learned as a volunteer for Better Block was the power of pitching an idea, and just having another person in the room say, "OK, go for it." One of the favorite destinations of the day was the Umbrella Alley, a canopy of colorful umbrellas that filtered the noonday sunlight, not unlike the renowned seasonal cherry blossoms, in the small alleyway between the former Cafe Reva and Tyler Welding. It may come to a surprise to some that this installation literally had a week turnaround time from inception to completion. The concept was first pitched to our group as an inspiration from a Pinterest post, and the coordinators said, "OK, make it happen." One week later, an array of nearly thirty colorful umbrellas floated over the outdoor seating in the alleyway.
Personally, I helped to construct the mini golf course that operated on the old Hess gas station lot. The encouragement I received even as I was scrambling to finish it in the final hour before Saturday's kickoff was invaluable. Even though it wasn't much, it is still one of my proudest handmade accomplishments, and I hope to refine the course even further so it can make more appearances down the road. (Stay tuned...)
These were some personal anecdotes that you may not hear from other places, mostly shared because I did not want to reinvent the wheel and recycle the other great coverage of the Transformation Day, particularly by iBerkshires and the Berkshire Eagle. Please check them out as well if you would like to read some more overall coverage of the day and to hear some more thoughts shared by coordinators, volunteers and attendees. This is just the beginning of Pittsfield showing its true colors, and I hope you'll join us along the way.