SHELBURNE FALLS, Mass (WGGB) — Monday marked a spectacular end to the Columbus Day weekend here in the Pioneer Valley.
Many of us spent time enjoying the fall foliage, and many more of us made the annual trek to the Village of Shelburne Falls.
What a difference seven short weeks can make. Especially when you get people motivated and mobilized, and a date circled on the calendar.
Residents of Shelburne Falls know how important the Columbus Day weekend is to the local economy. And residents put there sense of community to work big time.
“Shelburne Falls has a history of being a gathering place for people all the way back to the days of the Native Americans,’ said Kathlene Pew, owner of the Shelburne Booksellers.
“People are really drawn to this place for reasons sometimes they don’t even know. They feel a deep sense of peace when they come here.”
Rebuild and they will come. Residents of the picture perfect village of Shelburne Falls want everyone to know that they’re open for business.
Monday the Iron Bridge was busy with holiday traffic. Tourists and locals strolled tree line street, and the Deerfield River provided its familiar backdrop to the seasonal fall foliage.
At the Moca Maya coffee shop Chris King was busy serving his customers. As President of the Shelburne Falls Small Business Association, he was well aware of how far the village has come.
“Considering everything we went through, and the fact that it caught a lot of people off guard,” said King. “People are back up and running a lot sooner than we thought.”
“There’s still a long way to go, but I think people are really optimistic.”
And that sense of optimism was contagious. Kathleen Pew’s Shelburne Booksellers, was nearly wiped out by Tropical Storm Irene.
“We’re five inches higher at our new location, Pew said with a big laugh.
Kathy was able to laugh because she reopened her book store in time for Columbus Day. Just in time for the visitors who keep coming back year after year.
“We’ve been coming here for 42 years now,” said Steve Reardon of West Brookfield. “We brought our kids here and we’re bringing our grand kids.
The villages recovery can be credited to the spirit of its business community. Kathy Young owns the Young and Constantin Gallery, and Jeff Grader is a local graphic artist.
They wanted to raise money for the West County Relief Fund, while giving residents a chance to show their support. They teamed to deign a T-Shirt entitled, ‘The Heart of 10 Communities’.
“I’ve lived here all my life growing up in Buckland,” said Grader. “I wanted to do something that people would connect with and realize that because it’s out of sight, out of mind, people are still needing a lot of help after August 28th”.
“It’s hard when you see things happen around the world and all of a sudden something really happens in our community,” said Young. “I called Jeff and said lets do something to let people know that we’re thinking about them. That we’re trying to help them.”
“I like the idea of something tangible where you can really see it. It’s a sense of community that we’re here for you, and it’s visual. We’re both artists, so something visual really works for us.”
We’ve spent a good deal of time in Shelburne Falls and Buckland over the past seven weeks. Residents talked about how important this weekend was, what a milestone it would be in the towns recovery.
Judging by what was happening on Columbus Day it appears they’re way ahead of schedule. And there are many more meaningful milestones still to come.