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The Sun editorial: Hamburg is not a provincial place, let’s all keep it that way

As anyone who lives in, near or drives through Hamburg knows, the Erie County Fair is in town this week, wrapping up on Aug. 17. The fair is many things to many people, and I always love talking about it with our readers and friends. Our parent company, Community Papers of Western New York, has hosted a booth in the Marketplace building throughout the run of the fair, which has given me and my coworkers the chance to talk to fairgoers, many of whom are also readers, about the fair, Hamburg, our paper and many other topics. It’s always enlightening to discover how far and wide people travel to come to Hamburg for this one span, and how excited they are about what the fair has to offer.

But Hamburg has much to offer, outside those gates. I often wonder whether fairgoers travel outside those perimeters while they’re here, or if they drive in, park, wander the fairgrounds (and quite a wander it is!) and go home. Most of the time, I suspect the latter.

It’s a shame that so many Western New Yorkers, or even those who come from out of state, do not visit some of the gems of our area, while they’re here. But it’s also a shame that some locals do not invite our visitors into our stomping grounds, or not with the gusto we might hope for.

“I hate the fair,” one resident grumbled at our front counter, one afternoon. “It clogs up the streets and you’ve got to lock your doors, because you never know who’s around.”

His statement took me aback, as a lifelong resident of Hamburg and a lifelong lover of the fair, as well. I’ve also locked my doors every day since I can remember, but that’s neither here nor there.

A line in one of my favorite Disney movies says, “I want much more than this provincial life.”

Provincial is exactly what we always hope Hamburg is not. Miriam Webster defines the word as “limited in outlook, lacking the polish of urban society ... marked by simplicity, informality and relative plainness.”

That’s not the Hamburg I know, and it’s not the face I want us to show the world.

As the local paper for 12 local towns, villages and hamlets in southern Western New York, The Sun seeks to be the voice of many places that consider their quaint, quiet natures some of their assets. As a frequent visitor to some of our smaller coverage areas, I love that about those places. There is something idyllic about wandering down a silent street, admiring the well-kept yards and blossoming fields that surround them. Those little villages and towns have never been anything but welcoming to me, and that’s what keeps them from feeling provincial, despite their size and small town-spirit.

Recently, there has been plenty of buzz around town about not only the fair, but the Eden Corn Festival, Burgerfest and now, the new Flavor of Hamburg festival, coming up on Aug. 23. That festival arose partly because some local business-owners felt that Burgerfest, especially given the damp weather this year, did not showcase their best side. The Flavor of Hamburg grew out of that discontent, but it grew out of more than division between local businesses, organizations and interests. It grew out of the efforts of a group of people who saw something that needed fixing and decided to do something about it.

That’s what keeps Hamburg, as a whole, from being provincial. Here, we have residents who do not just sit in coffee shops and complain, although there are certainly plenty of klatches who start out that way. Around here, we see a problem and do what we can to fix it.

While working at Burgerfest, a resident came up to me and said he was upset about the event, not only because of the weather, but the effect it had on his bottom line. He said that the traffic through Main and Buffalo streets is great, except for those businesses whose storefronts are covered by tents, or those who are inaccessible, especially for those who cannot park a few blocks away and trek in.

“Someone’s got to do something about it,” he grumbled, before wandering away. That conversation made me think, not only about festivals and their effect on businesses, but about whether people in our area are willing to work to change things, rather than pay them lip service and move along. That is a provincial attitude: When the prevailing instinct is to gossip about a problem instead of looking for a solution. It made me wonder: Are we really that small-minded?

When I heard about the Flavor of Hamburg, I realized they are. Thank you for restoring my faith in our little piece of humanity.

I see those types of people every day: People who see a need and want to help, people who start a charity to give back, to say thank you or to raise awareness. It seems that every day, someone calls to alert me to a new fundraiser, a new community action group or a new way to give back.

I also received a call about our Eden Corn Festival coverage, which continues in this week’s issue, due to space constraints in last week’s edition. A reader was upset that we did not cover some events, while others received our attention, and I felt it necessary to apologize to those who felt slighted. Any omissions on our part were wholly unintentional, and that goes for any events that have gone unmentioned, within our pages.

Here at The Sun, we do our best to cover as many local events as we can, but sometimes we miss things. Our staff, which was reduced by half almost exactly a year ago, we do our best to cover everything that happens around our area. As a newspaper that covers all 12 of our municipalities as equally as we can, we do not consider one event more important than another, but we only have as many hours in our days as everyone else. That is why we depend on our readers to alert us to your events, your perspectives and your needs, so we can truly be your hometown source for the news you want to share, not only the news you want to read.

Provincial places are small-minded, with narrow views of what is important and who belongs within their borders. As a paper that covers many places with as many borders, we have always found that the doors are open, no matter which way they swing. We hope that attitude will continue, as we continue to do our best to keep sending readers through them.

Thank you, to those readers who have alerted us to your charities, events and accomplishments. Thank you to those who have called, written or emailed with feedback on what has and has not been featured. We appreciate the alert attitudes of our residents, and strive to give everyone the best coverage we can, as much as we can.


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