The Sarasota Herald Tribune's coverage of the opening of the city's new Payne Park was disappointing. An article about "politics" and an opinion piece about the displacement of the long time trailer home residents summed up the event for our local newspaper. Both were interesting but missed the point of the amazing transformation of this piece of land into great green space for our entire community. An editorial on Oct 9 provided a much better description of the festive mood:
In an age of budget battles and cutbacks, the opening of a new park is one of the few developments that can truly bring a community together.
And so it was Saturday, as Sarasota celebrated its new Payne Park.
Thousands of people of different incomes, ethnicities and ages -- natives as well as newcomers -- mingled to enjoy the festivities. The all-day party, with music, food, free skateboarding, a movie and exhibitions, was a cooperative effort between city staff, neighborhood volunteers and sponsors. They did an outstanding job.
Stan Zimmerman wrote an e-mail to city staff that came much closer to what everyone attending the grand opening on Saturday felt:
Michael (Raposa): Before I even shower, I'm sitting down to express my profound thanks to you and your folks for making the Payne Park Grand Opening a phenomenal success.
Several observations were striking.
1. The Number Of Kids. The skateboard park was jammed all day. Toddlers were rolling down down the grass of Duane's Mountain. Pre- teens were cruising the sidewalks. Babies were oogling from sidewalks. More kids than I have ever seen in one place in Sarasota. EVER. The average age of folks attending this event reflected so well the TRUE city demographic – average age is coming down.
2. Re-Acquaintances: I heard at least four times, "My word, I haven't seen you in twenty years!" Hugs and smiles. It happened to me twice, smiling faces I thought lost in my past were smiling anew. This event brought folks not only out, but together. In our world of "bowling alone," the stereotype was shattered.
3. Reawakening of Hope: Alta Vista gave away a half-ton of fruit today. Just shy of 1,000 pounds. Kids learned to fly kites, I helped a few myself.
There was a general outbreak of kindness today I haven't seen in town in...well...maybe never. 7-Up Cake, bet you never had that before, baked in an old tradition, and offered up with pride. This was event like no other. Without elbows, nastiness or tears. Spontaneous good will permeated the air. As the movie began, a thousand people jammed together to enjoy a night under the stars.
You helped make this happen. Your staff helped make this happen.
And tonight, I and many others are so glad to live here, where magic can happen.
Please circulate this e-gram to all the city employees who gave their time and attention to create this exquisite event. Without all of their help, none of this would have happened.
A big THANK YOU to Stan and all the community residents that also worked very hard to make this wonderful day happen. Another THANK YOU to Stan for capturing the feelings and happenings in words.
Pictures of the Payne Park Opening can be found on th City's Website.