‘Celebrate Holyoke’ reflects dynamic, proud community: Alex Morse

This story originally appeared on MassLive.com on August 18, 2015

By Alex Morse

The week of Celebrate Holyoke has finally arrived. After a 10-year hiatus, the much beloved event will return this weekend to our downtown.

Last August, I announced the City’s plans to bring back Celebrate Holyoke. Within days of the announcement, hundreds of people from Holyoke and surrounding communities had reached out, looking for ways to help. We formed a volunteer committee, which met on almost weekly basis, and we continually sought ways to involve more and more members of the community in planning. Ultimately, the return of Celebrate Holyoke was a great collaborative effort – one that involved the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, our volunteer committee, the Celebrate Holyoke executive director Sigrid von Wendel, community organizations, and countless passionate Holyokers. This weekend, all that work will pay off.

Celebrate Holyoke is a celebration of music, art, food, and community. Those of us who attended Celebrate in past years know what a fun community event it is. I can still remember, as a kid, going downtown with friends to watch the live music and eat fried dough. No one who was around back then will forget the performances by our talented local acts, or the headlining set by the Saw Doctors.

Celebrate Holyoke 2015 begins this Friday, and is free and open to the public. Over the course of the weekend, 25 bands, representing a variety of musical genres, will play in Heritage Park. Folks will get to make selections from 15 different food and drink vendors, and appreciate the work of 60 artists and crafters. There will be space for kids to play and an assortment of family and children’s activities.

The idea behind Celebrate Holyoke is simple: Holyoke is a community worth celebrating. The people who live in Holyoke know this to be true. Whether you have family ties that go back generations, or have only planted roots here in recent years, you’ve all chosen to be part of what’s happening here.

When you make your way downtown this weekend – whether you’ll be enjoying the slip and slide “Slide the City,” listening to some music, meeting with friends – I hope you’ll take the time to notice some of what’s been happening downtown over the past few years. Race Street has become a hub for art and creativity. Much progress has been made along the CanalWalk. The new train platform has been built and will soon be open for business. A new art installation is being put in place under the Mosher Street bridge. The former Holyoke Catholic building has been turned into 54 new apartments, which will soon be available for renting. The City’s investment in new and renovated parks – a renovated Veterans Park, a renovated Avery Field, a new Skate Park, among others – has made our downtown a nicer place for families and children to enjoy themselves and their community. These projects, among many others, constitute millions of dollars of investment happening right in our downtown. Our innovative citizens are building a legacy we can all be proud of.

That’s what this weekend is all about: the pride we feel in our hometown. At this moment in our city’s history, we have chosen to call Holyoke our home. We have chosen to build something worth remembering. And we are well on our way. So, let’s celebrate! I look forward to seeing you downtown this weekend.

Alex Morse is the mayor of Holyoke.