Small towns are having a difficult time surviving, let alone thriving. Young people graduate and move away because there are no jobs. Dwindling populations cause stores to close so people drive to big box stores out of town to shop. This causes more stores to close. It is a vicious cycle. If a town loses a school, it might make matters even worse. County seats are lucky because they have the courthouse and fairground. Schools and nursing homes become the biggest employers.
What to do? Many of us grew up in small towns and realize their charm. We want them to keep thriving. We encourage tourism, woo businesses, and take courses in branding to promote a bike trail, a river that allows tubing and canoeing and fishing, or live theater, or an Owl Center. Most small towns have a summer festival, like Buffalo Bill Days orHouston Hoedown. A rhubarb festival or balloon rally compete for visiters. Having a Niagara Cave, an Amish population or a veterans cemetery, or heritage center help. SHOP LOCAL becomes a mantra.
Somtimes hoping, praying, and branding still don’t make a big difference. However, SMALL TOWN CITIZENS never give up. Driving through Rushford after the devastation of the flood, I saw signs proclaiming: NEVER, EVER GIVE UP. Rushford is thriving. They even built a new school. Sometimes attitude and hard work do work!
Women know that when you invite people over that you make them feel welcome by cleaning, decorating and putting your best foot forward. A group of women in Caledonia who call themselves “the Streetscapers” decided to give downtown Caledonia “a woman’s touch.” So Laurel, Polly, Carolyn, Ann, Joan, and Janene decided to “light up Caledonia.” First they needed to coordinate with all existing committees. Then they needed to brainstorm ideas to beautify downtown Caledonia so that visitors would feel so welcome that they might come again. This was a big job with no city funding. However these “warrior women” did not give up. Polly wrote grants. Donations were accepted. Fundraisers were necessary. I was honored to speak at a fundraiser recently for this group. Many women shared their best dinnnerware for guests to eat lunch on. Centerpieces were creative and gorgeous. It was a success and raised funds for future decorating.
Many groups in small town across the state do projects like this. Houston Pride is one of them. The people who organize the rhubarb festival in Lanesboro is another one. I immediately think of jam, pies, cake, muffins, relish and bread when I think of rhubarb. I would never be brave enough to share any recipes for rhubarb with the experts. It is the season to start using your favorite rhubarb recipes. Someone told me that cutting rhubarb with a scissors works better than a knife. Another told me she uses rhubarb jam not only on toast and English muffins, but also for a pretzel dip. Start your picking now!
Cream Filled Strawberries
18 large fresh strawberries
1 cup cold fat-free milk
1 pkg. sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix (1 oz.)
2 cups reduced fat whipped topping
1/4 t. almond flavoring
Remove stems from strawberries; cut a deep V in the top of each strawberry. Spread tops apart gently.
In a bowl whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes. Fold in whipped topping and almond extract. Pipe or spoon about 5 teaspoons into each berry. Chill before serving.
This is an easy, elegant and healthy snack or dessert!