Washington Evening Journal
http://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/a-real-celebration/1041489

Neighbors Growing Together | May 24, 2017

A real celebration

By Susan See
Susan See

Last Saturday, Celebrate Washington truly lived up to its name.  It was a joyous mix of biking and running, activities for kids, art of all kinds on display, a “one of a kind” car designed by Carlton Bump, impromptu piano music in the library on the restored Steinway grand piano, summertime food, and of course an eclectic mix of music throughout the day and into the night.  The recently renovated downtown square was a perfect venue for the day.  
More than once, I heard comments from those who were visiting for the weekend; they were not only thoroughly enjoying themselves, but they sensed something vey special, an atmosphere of community and a spirit of exuberance.  In particular, the group, Big Band Theory, a culmination of local, former local and imported musicians played for three hours from 4-7 p.m. onstage.  Their energy and expertise provided a caliber of music onstage that was rather unbelievable!
Sometimes we forget what we have here when the local headlines remind us of subject matter that needs to be addressed but is very difficult to hear.  An attitude of negativity can become contagious and then we become resigned to the “gloom and doom” attitude.   
When our family moved to Washington 30 years ago to be near relatives, I told friends that we had discovered Iowa’s answer to Mayberry.  Over time, my enthusiastic naivety has been replaced with a sense of urgency and a need to rescue something very precious.  Next year, Washington will turn 175 years old; young compared to towns and cities in other parts of the world, but old enough in this country to have experienced many boom periods as well as recessions and a major depression.
I feel a cautious optimism about Washington and what is possible.   What if, over the next several months, we worked together to spruce up our neighborhoods to match the revitalized downtown?  The process is not a simple one and it will need the full support of not only the city council, but service groups, church groups, school organizations,  and individual citizens, young and old alike.  It will involve many steps, and we already have a committee of committed townspeople who have invested over one thousand hours thinking of ways for improvements to evolve.  
But for now,  it can start with simple things like carrying a bag to pick up trash as you walk, rather than waiting for volunteers to do this for us once a year.  I already see a few people doing this.  Encourage others to pick up after themselves.  It takes awhile to develop habits.   Call the city when you have questions about what is allowed or not allowed on properties.  Keeping your lawn mowed and not letting items like bags of garbage, tires, broken furniture, and old discarded recliners languish in our yards will be a huge beginning.  Fixing broken windows as well as trimming shrubs and helping those who are not able to do so are inexpensive and charitable ways to freshen up the neighborhoods. Our behavior, for good or for bad, is contagious.  
Thank you to all the volunteers and to Main Street for a Saturday of celebration.  Now, let’s get ready for our 175th Anniversary like we are getting ready for the Olympics...because THIS PLACE MATTERS!