DUE to our print deadline, I write this column the day before the most momentous midterm election of modern times.
I have no idea how that’s going to turn out. So this column won’t be about that.
I do however want to talk about a pretty interesting and (literally) timely debate which is arising around town, involving the changing nature of Savannah — specifically, its calendar of events.
If you look at this issue’s Week at a Glance section, you’ll see no shortage of fun, interesting and educational events happening all over.
This wasn’t always the case.
In times past, the middle of November typically signaled a slowdown from the frenetic fall pace in Savannah of September and October.
Those two months have typically been the autumn bookends of the March/April and September/October festival season each year. Simply put, those four months are typically packed to bursting with local events.
Someone once told me that if you break down the Savannah calendar, you’ll find that almost everything of note happens during about 11-12 weekends each year.
However, it might be time to recalibrate that.
As Exhibit A, I offer the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon, held this past weekend (and this year, as occasionally happens, also concurrent with the final weekend of the SCAD Savannah Film Festival).
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon is one of several signature events specifically designed to extend the local visitor season outside of the above-mentioned March/April and September/October windows.
In the Marathon’s case, the idea to bring it here came up roughly concurrently with the great recession and its aftermath, during a time when no one really knew what the economic future of Savannah would look like.
It has gained a success and a life of its own beyond its original intent.
The same is true of the Savannah Craft Brew Festival on the other side of autumn. The Brew Fest was specifically designed to stimulate visitor traffic during a down time — in this case Labor Day weekend, which once was quite slow but these days is pretty hopping (pardon the pun.)
Remember that when both these events were envisioned, the then-barren Savannah River Landing site — now rebranded as the Eastern Wharf — was staring everybody in the face as a rather huge symbol of national economic slowdown.
Nobody knew then what the future would hold for Savannah.
There was no way to know then that in ten or so years time, the demand to move to Savannah and live here would be so great that there would be five-story residential buildings set to go up in the middle of historic neighborhoods, giant new SCAD dorms, and an Atlanta developer named Ben Carter buying up most of Broughton Street just to flip the properties.
There was no way to know back then that the then-desolate Savannah River Landing site would in a decade be one of two truly enormous new development plans for each side of the existing Historic District (along with the proposed Arena/Canal District to the west).
Savannah came out of the recession like gangbusters. Indeed, the question now is not how good the local economy is, but can we build all these things fast enough, without exposing taxpayers to too much pain in the event of another major downturn.
The Marathon and the Craft Brew Fest, to name but two such events, are two calendar staples which now have a successful track record, and which have arguably outgrown their original purposes as jump-starters for a slow economy.
What we’re seeing then, is the idea that the citizens of Savannah — for the time being at least — are in the driver’s seat.
We live in a place of extremely high demand now.
Maybe it’s time we acted like it.
Savannah has a long historic track record of selling itself short, especially when outside investment is involved.
A recent example is the criticism that the City is letting prime property go to private investors at below-market prices — a recession mindset in a post-recession environment.
Why not hold out for more while we can?
This also applies to scheduling of events. There’s no reason anymore to jump-start the local calendar, for tourists or for locals.
The tourists seem to be coming here regardless, and the ranks of locals are increasing steadily as more and more people move here.
For example, I don’t know much about Marathons or their scheduling. But if it’s possible to bump the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon a few weeks later, why not try it?
That would ease the impact on local residents given the large volume of events happening the same weekend — such as the Film Festival — and also probably provide better weather for the runners.
The event would arguably be just as successful.
This would also be a reverse of the previous philosophy, in that it would begin first by asking what’s best for locals rather than what’s best for visitors.
This is obviously just the most basic starting point of a very large discussion centering on quality of life, burden on taxpayers,
This issue and its related issues will all be points of contention on another election day — the one happening a year from now in 2019, when the Mayor’s seat and all City Council seats come up for your vote.
IN OTHER NEWS, it would be irresponsible not to mention the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One, happening this Veterans Day.
At 11 a.m. this Sunday, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month — the time of the 1918 Armistice ending “the war to end all wars” — bells in Savannah’s City Hall will ring out to mark the occasion.
Churches and organizations all around the city are set to join in with their own bells, and a number of celebrations marking Veterans Day happen all over town, culminating in Monday’s Veterans Day Parade in downtown Savannah.
About 7 million American soldiers were mobilized in 1917-18 for World War One. At least 125 soldiers from Chatham County lost their lives.
The Ft. Stewart-based 3rd Infantry Division got its nickname, “The Rock of the Marne,” during that war, anchoring the successful defense of Paris against a German offensive.
That war is gone from living memory.
In a few years, World War Two will also be gone from living memory, as soldiers of that war pass on.
In this issue I wrote about a neat event happening this Thursday at the veteran-owned Service Brewing. Mountainfilm On Tour Savannah is bringing three veteran-themed documentaries to the brewery.
And you can even ride your bike there with like-minded friends — just meet up at the Savannah Bicycle Campaign HQ at 1310 Lincoln St. at 5 p.m., with your lights and helmet of course! From there pedal over to Service Brewing for the event.