Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fish and Whistle (with Howie)

You can look up "city" in a dictionary and after consulting with a professional urban engineer, designer or planner construct a definition that includes buildings and boulevards, parks and people, schools and shops as well as neighborhoods and those who call them home. What you'd have combined used a little bit of math and demographics, a lot of hard work and careful planning with just a touch of magic and a dash of timing.

Living in Norwich for slightly over two decades I smile when listening to new residents speak of our 'potential' not because it's funny but because that was the very word I used to describe what I was excited about when my family and I first arrived here. And all of us who see it are right, even if we continue to quarrel about where we're going and how to get there.

I was on Main Street Saturday afternoon, one of the Top Ten Days of the Year in terms of weather and it would've been an ideal day to get jostled by shoppers and gawkers swarming the sidewalks from stores along Franklin Square and the eateries and coffee shop near Union Street before heading back to their cars parked for free in the municipal garages that line the waterfront area.        

Maybe it was a trick of the light, but for the most part I saw no one-that is, until I got to Howard T. Brown Park. There were families of swans and ducks waiting for someone, anyone, to disregard the 'Do Not Feed the Wildlife' signs and offer a handout.

The benches were filled with people in absolutely no hurry to go anywhere or do anything. The waterfront all along The Marina was alive with small craft, sail and powerboats, enjoying yet another 'last chance this summer' to take to the water. I'm used to seeing people in the area on Wednesdays for the Downtown Farmers Market and during the summer for Rock the Docks, but this crowd was making its own fun in the sun.

And everywhere, from upriver of the Sweeney Bridge to the shadows of the Laurel Hill Bridge were fishermen and women of every age, size and color. In some places they stood practically shoulder to shoulder, casting and trolling and then recasting, always on the prowl and always looking for the next strike at the line.

Ever since Norwich didn't capture the crown of Ultimate Fishing Town earlier this spring (congratulations, by the way, to Ollcott Beach and Hastings, New York; but remember, there's always next year), there's been a lot more serious talk about fishing and tourism as part of a package of attractions, not the silver bullet, to help grow Norwich.  

The Harbor Management Commission's "Waterfront Vision" was first offered a year ago and some extended discussions with state officials about a way ahead and available funding have taken place so maybe it's only right that a first, concrete step to build the Harbor into an attraction involves fishing. And royalty. Sort of.

This Saturday oh-bright-early, starting at six (in the morning) and lasting until noon is the first annual King of the Docks Fishing Derby-open to anyone and everyone. Jerry Martin, of the Harbor Management Commission and event organizer, says there's no entry fee, but adds only shore bound anglers can compete for prizes to include, I assume, tarter sauce.

The derby goes on regardless of weather but if this Saturday is half as nice as the last one, it will still be a beautiful day so get to Howard T. Brown Park early and fish and whistle, and whistle and fish.
-bill kenny

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