Looking back on a dozen years or so - Denny Scott editorial
Due to the short week this week, The Citizen’s editorial department had a “short week” last week (our Monday deadline got moved to Friday) and, during those short weeks, it can be plenty difficult to find something to write about in this space that’s both timely and of interest to the majority of our readers. Fortunately for me, I had Kelly McIntosh’s help in discovering, or being reminded of, something that definitely interested me and I hope will interest you as well.
Kelly is the new audience development co-ordinator and artistic associate at the Blyth Festival and, as is often the case with new, full-time employees at one of the most publicly-recognized employers in the area, I penned a story about Kelly (as well as one about Nathanya Barnett, the Festival’s new box office manager and volunteer co-ordinator).
I’ll let you all see a bit behind the curtain (no pun intended) when it comes to interviewing people involved with the Blyth Festival by saying that those interviews are almost universally engaging and cover far more than just the story we’re telling. I probably get to know the people at the Festival, both the full-time permanent people and the seasonal cast and crew, better than most people I interview. Maybe it’s just part of being in the theatre world that they like to talk to people, but they’re almost universally a joy to interview and Kelly is no exception.
A lot of people will recognize her name from 2019’s In the Wake of Wettlaufer. McIntosh has a long history with the Blyth Festival, going back to Paul Thompson’s Death of the Hired Man in 2000 and including several years with The Outdoor Donnellys (just look for her poster, I’m told it’s fairly well known).
When our interview ended, I said I was looking forward to seeing her around the community or maybe at Brød Bread and Pastry picking up a coffee and she mentioned it was great to see Blyth’s downtown full of so many businesses, saying she hopes that “spark”, which has been going on for several years, continues.
It got me thinking back, as many things do in February, to when I first started at The Citizen in February of 2010.
Prior to that, I spent more than a year at the Goderich Signal-Star (and yes, as I’ve said before it was hyphenated then even if it isn’t now) and, aside from refereeing some soccer games and attending a theatre show or two, I had very little reason to visit Blyth.
So when I landed here, as gracefully as one can after being laid off mere months after having his internship turn into a full-time job, I didn’t know much about the village’s downtown.
At the time, there were some “missing teeth” as economic development professionals call empty storefronts and, within a short period of time after I started, one of the local restaurants had a fire that closed it for months.
Suffice to say, there weren’t a lot of options to stop and grab a coffee on my daily commute.
The changes to Blyth’s main street and surrounding areas have been gradual and, while I wouldn’t say they’ve gone unnoticed, when you take them all into consideration, things have changed in Blyth significantly over the past dozen years.
Sure, there are businesses that are no longer there which are definitely missed, but when I started there was only a single restaurant downtown (due to that fire) in The Blyth Inn. There was the Grandview on the edge of town, and that was about it.
We also didn’t have clothing shops, a pharmacy, a consignment store or an art studio (though one could argue Davara Studios filled that niche) and now we have all of those things.
It’s easy to think of these kinds of additions to the community as commonplace, but if you take a bit of a longer view, you might realize just how lucky we are to have all the different businesses we now have, and all the types of businesses that have returned.
We can order a pizza, stock up on sewing supplies, pick up a loaf of bread and get our prescriptions filled all downtown. We can also, of course, do our grocery shopping and stock up our liquor cabinets. Aside from the fact that we can’t do our banking in town, the village of Blyth has plenty of great businesses (and an award-winning, community-owned newspaper) that are now part of our everyday life.
For those of you who are newer to the area, you’re coming in during a great period. For those of you who have been here longer than me, it may be a resurgence. For those of you who have been here for around a decade like me, take a second and remember what was and be glad for what we’ve got. Then remember to shop local.