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More Things to Do Means More Folks Out Doing Them (Featuring Touch a Truck Day)

Posted Mar 11 2013 6:16am
So my younger daughter and I are driving through Decatur, Georgia Saturday, passing a lovely farmer's market with fiddlers and other musicians, and we come upon streams of people, mostly pushing strollers, bee-lining for a large parking lot filled with a wide assortment of what appears to be Public Works vehicles.

"What is going on?" she asks me.

I remember a little tidbit I saw on the Decatur website that morning and answer, "It's Touch a Truck Day."  

She thinks I'm kidding because, let's face it, it sounds ridiculous (and reminds me of that " Scratch a Dog Day" story --start reading at the "A sunny Friday afternoon on Park Avenue South" part), but the scene in front of us clearly supports the weird phrase I had just said. People (usually accompanied by toddlers) are most definitely going up to the trucks and touching them.

I post this on Facebook and a friend of mine comments that his city, Alpharetta, has a Touch a Truck Day, too. I happen to be in downtown Alpharetta (12 miles from my home) to visit my mother yesterday and I leap out of my car to take a photo of the new four-lanes-to-two, bike-pathed roundabout in the center of town where construction of a parking deck, new library, and large public park is currently underway, while saying to no one in particular, "Wow, wow, wow" the whole time. (I have clearly become an urban planning nerd.) I am not surprised that this city has a Touch a Truck Day, too. (It also has a public pool that charges something like three bucks a day for residents, no annual membership fee required.)

Intrigued now, I Google "Touch a Truck Day," and lo and behold, cities from South Carolina to Oklahoma to Colorado host these low-cost (to the city), free (to the public), simple events as well. (Maybe your city does, too.)  Where have I been? I almost missed this trend.

Back to Decatur, please note that every single outdoor cafe was packed that day, pedestrians were everywhere, and the buzz in the city was palpable and fun. I rolled down my windows to hear the fiddlers and realized it has been forever since I heard street music. We voted with our dollars for Farm Burger for lunch ( I wrote about co-owner Jason Mann for Urban Farm magazine , plus see this post from 2007: A Dream So Big ), and the big difference between the Decatur location (which we strongly prefer) and the one in my city is that that one is right on the street and the "street show" of people passing makes sitting in the window and watching really enjoyable, plus many people arrive as pedestrians, which somehow just changes the vibe. The one in my city, however grateful I am that it's there, is in a strip shopping center and looks out over a parking lot.

I just heard that my city did not want to participate in funding a new series of weekly summer outdoor concerts in our main park ( the trees-cut-down park ) because there is another series going on in the nature center park ( the tree swing park ) on the opposite side of the city and there is a feeling that one will cannibalize the other. Huh? I don't get that thinking. More things to do means more folks out doing them. And there is definitely lots of room to grow in that direction, since when I returned to my city on that 65-degree beautiful day, I didn't see a soul on the sidewalks. Not one.

Bravo to cities hosting Touch a Truck Days. That's the kind of simple, creative thinking I love. If you go to just about any other city, there are a plethora of free things to do all the time that don't rely on "pay to play" commercial operations, but that most likely result in people voting with their dollars for local businesses (if there are any) before they head back home, thereby boosting economic sustainability.

The "spring is heeeeere" bird is greeting me every morning now, and it gets me tapping my feet and thinking about street music, relaxing strolls, and simple pleasures.
eclectic food-for-thought for a changing world
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