Monday Morning Musings

Posted on July 30, 2018 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

B.C. House on the campus of St.F.X.

It’s time to put out the welcome mat and show Canada that we are the best small town in the country.

Tomorrow evening, the National Special Olympics kick off with a dazzling ceremony at the Keating Millennium Centre. Some 1400 athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers will descend upon Antigonish and we need to show them that a small town is up to the task. Last year, the national games were held in Greater Vancouver, a city and surrounding area comprised of some 2.5 million people. Greater Antigonish (!) has a population of about 18,000.

It has been a daunting task to plan an event of this magnitude. I don’t think most of us have any idea what a big deal this really is. Yes, we are a university town and every September we welcome around 4,500 students to the area. Antigonish has been doing this for decades and the drill is well rehearsed. The transition to a new academic year is almost seamless. We expect more traffic, more energy and a lot more noise in our neighborhoods until students settle into their groove.

But this is different.

There is no doubt that Antigonish has had some experience hosting national competitions but these will be dwarfed in size and complexity by the Special Olympics. Organizers have been preparing for a few years now and the fruits of their labour will be borne out this week. An army of volunteers is in place to handle every possible contingency but let’s not sit idly by. This may be one of the greatest marketing opportunities for the town that we’ve ever had.

So, how can you help?

Undoubtedly there will be some last minute calls for help. No one can predict with certainty how things will unfold. Check your social media platforms a bit more often. If you’re already on Facebook 24 hours a day, please disregard the previous comment!

Be courteous to the many new faces you will meet on the streets of the town. Be helpful with directions. For many visitors, this will be the first time that they have travelled to Nova Scotia and we want to demonstrate our hospitality.

Be patient. Expect more traffic. We sometimes get our knickers in a knot if we have to wait more than 45 seconds trying to make a left turn. Economic spinoffs from a major event come at a cost so prepare to be delayed at some point this week. Restaurants, grocery stores, retail outlets will all be busier than normal. If you happen to be in a lineup and you see a stranger, strike up a conversation and welcome them to our town.

Smile at people. No one is suggesting that we all walk the streets with a perma grin on our face but a smile goes a long way. Take some tips from the Special Olympians. Smiling is something that comes naturally to them.

Be a spectator. While all of the focus and energy has been on the planning of the games, many people forget that this is an athletic competition and Canada’s best will be here strutting their stuff. If you want to see great athletes and great attitudes on display, wander over to the campus of St.F.X, the epicentre of the event.

Be an ambassador. We all know the expression, “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” This is a golden opportunity to show the country that we are hospitable and caring people. We want our guests to go back home and rave about “the Antigonish experience”. Tell visitors about our beaches, live theatre, our culture and heritage, our university, our library, our museum. Tell them about the strength of our primary industries of farming, fishing and forestry. Tell them about our world class hospital and the Coady Institute. Invite them to next year’s Highland Games.

Better still, show them. If they have time and you have time, show them around the area. Take them to the Tall and Small for a coffee or buy them an ice cream at the Koala Cone, or a drive around “the Cape”.

In other words, do what you always do.

Show people that Antigonish just may be the best small town in Canada.

 

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