“Greater things are still to be done, in this city.”
It was the eve of press day and I hustled a set of proofs to my copy editor, Dennis Held, west on Second Ave. toward his home in Vinegar Flats. As I drove past the new home of the Iron Goat brewery, I spied a couple of friends standing at a high table behind the large glass roller doors. It was Hoopfest weekend and the place—along with our city—was abuzz.
I texted my friend Jennifer Evans, principal of Encore Events, to see if I could crash her gathering, as she simultaneously texted me to check in on my schedule and whereabouts. It had been a busy week, and I felt the tug of home battling the enticement of city excitement. Earlier in the week, I had attended—alongside 250 other professionals—the Action Coach Third Tuesday networking group’s cruise on Lake Coeur d’Alene’s Mish-an-Nock, one of two 100-foot cruise boats docked at the resort (the very same one I spent the night on with 46 of my high school classmates after graduation, 24 years ago).
Thursday evening, I walked from my downtown office to The Grand Terrace for a magazine photo shoot, and then walked through Riverfront Park, as Hoopfest set-up was in full swing, to the Bozzi Media event facility, Chateau Rive at the Floor Mill, for my sister publication Inland Business Catalyst’s Power 50 Awards celebration, honoring 50 members of our community who have the mind, energy, passion—and the clout—to make big things happen for Spokane. Although most on the list prefer to stay out of the limelight, the honorees came out to celebrate one another and the upward path our city is on.
I dropped off the proofs and weaved my way through Friday 5 p.m. traffic back toward the Iron Goat. I was exhausted, but it’s hard to resist time with friends in a fun establishment. It’s hard to resist being out and about in Spokane.
Jennifer was meeting with Dave Cotton, discussing his August golf tournament the Cotton Classic, benefiting Meals on Wheels. As we updated each other on personal and professional life news, we stopped and looked around, marveling at the energy of the bustling crowd.
“How cool is this city?” we mused.
Dave remembered being fresh on the Spokane scene 15 years ago, having moved here to become co-anchor of the Inland Northwest’s top-rated morning television news program KHQ Local News Today. Riding his bike downtown to explore his new city soon after arriving, he found there wasn’t much to do and that the downtown area in particular was somewhat of a ghost town. “What have I done?” he asked himself.
Spokane isn’t the same city it was 15 years ago. And that’s a good thing. Tune into your senses and you’ll see more visual art, hear more music, read more literature from your neighbors as we become a writers’ town, taste “knock your socks off” cuisine, gather in cool spaces with business associates and friends alike. And what makes it more magical is we have managed to hang onto the friendly, small-city vibe where you can drive by a cool new brewpub and see your friends hanging out. Spokane’s culture and vibe is still about staying connected, keeping it real, which means intimate—talking about our difficulties and tragedies, as well as our joys and triumphs; and it’s reciprocal: it goes both ways, and occurs often enough that it’s meaningful. The trick, as we move forward, will be to keep that welcoming, small-town feel as Spokane grows and diversifies. Keeping it real, Spokane style, in the face of more humans, more tourism, more traffic, greater strains on our essential services and natural resources. It won’t be easy, but if enough people stay connected at a personal level, we can all help each other get it done, by supporting each other in our various efforts to make Spokane Strong.