Fostering community resilience the topic of Dar Williams’ visit
A rather remarkable series of community conversations will be held in the Wenatchee Valley, Leavenworth and Chelan next week hosted by acclaimed singer and songwriter Dar Williams, who wrote the powerful book “What I Found in a Thousand Towns.” Her book focuses on how communities thrive in the midst of significant change.
In each community, Williams will facilitate a conversation with youth and civic leaders exploring a community specific topic. Tuesday in Chelan, the discussion will center on what the community values as a small town and how the community might enhance that sense of belonging. She’ll meet with students and civic leaders, and from 6 to 7 p.m. hold a public conversation and play music at The Vogue.
In Leavenworth, student leaders will focus on building their community in a rather sterile feeling new building. Community leaders will gather around the topic “where I meet my neighbor.” Dar will also visit the Farmers Market and sing a couple of songs on the market stage. In the Wenatchee Valley, the conversation will focus on connecting the cultures of the communities. She’ll spend Wednesday meeting with student leaders. On Oct. 5, she will work with civic leaders.
The community will be able to get involved and hear what Dar learned about our valley and reflect on what lessons she has learned from places like Moab, Utah, that we might consider applying here.
After four days of touring our local towns, the whole community will have a chance to hear what Dar found in three of our towns at a community forum at 5 p.m. Friday at Pybus Public Market. At 7 p.m., Mariachi Huenachi will start the festivities with some songs, and then Dar will sing some songs and tell us about the strengths she sees in our communities.
On Oct. 6, Dar will the stage at 7 p.m. at Snowy Owl Theater on the Sleeping Lady Mountain Retreat campus. You can get tickets to hear this world-class performer at icicle.org.
What Dar has found in her travels is that communities succeed when there is positive proximity — places and events that bring people together from diverse political, economic and demographic backgrounds to work together for the common good. Her book articulates how communities in various parts of the country have worked to enhance the sense of community while meeting new economic challenges or opportunities.
Icicle Creek Center for the Arts led the effort to bring her to North Central Washington in collaboration with several powerful partners, including the Sleeping Lady Foundation, Together for Youth, the North Central Regional Library, Our Valley Our Future, the Woods Family Music and Arts Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Historic Downtown Chelan Association, and others. The partners saw the opportunity to celebrate the sense of community that thrives in the region and seek insight into how we can create deeper connections.
Mike Caemmerer of the Icicle Creek Center for the Arts has been a primary driver in creating this five-day engagement with Dar Williams. He told me that it has long been a goal to bring this gifted singer to Leavenworth, but when he heard about the powerful book she had written, he leaped at the opportunity to see if we could combine meaningful community conversations and music. The North Central Regional Library jumped on board early because they saw the opportunity to foster community by promoting her book and holding conversations about it in local libraries. Together For Youth saw in this community collaboration a golden opportunity to encourage building deeper connections between the cultures of our valley, one of the primary goals of Together’s mission.
Our Valley Our Future has been working to foster grass roots community building by empowering businesses and individuals to take action.
Bringing Dar Williams here can be traced back to Chelan Mayor Mike Cooney, who introduced me to “What I Found in a Thousand Towns” and who is passionately interested in deepening the sense of community in Chelan.
All of our towns are under significant pressure these days with economic growth and tourism to maintain that sense of connection and belonging. It’s that sense of contribution and caring for the greater good that makes our communities great places to live.