To the point week of 08-21-08

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TODAY (THURSDAY) THE 37TH Swiss Wine Festival will kick off down in the Paul Ogle Riverfront Park in Vevay. By the time you read this, there will have already been hours and hours of set up work done in the park in preparation of welcoming visitors for the next four days.

The main portion of the festival will be held over the four days from today through Sunday. It will be a time filled with all sorts of activities; plenty of good food; and lots of great entertainment.

The Swiss Wine Festival is many different things, and in the festival becoming the wonderful event that it has; all of those things have come into play.

First and foremost, the Swiss Wine Festival is a time when members of the Switzerland County community come together and spend time talking and enjoying the event. Walk though the food area of the festival, and you will see folks sitting around at a picnic table, sipping a soda and having a conversation.

There are people whom you see at the festival that you don’t see during the rest of the year; and grabbing a bench and watching the people and taking in the beauty of the river make it a perfect time to catch up.

One of the things that struck me when I moved to Switzerland County in the early 1980s was the friendliness of the people here. That was never more evident than during the festival, when it seemed as though every seat was taken by old friends and new acquaintances.

It’s still that way now, and more than anything, that’s what I enjoy about our festival.

The festival is also a time when people from around the region come to Switzerland County. It’s a time for the community and its residents to “show off” a bit with all of the natural beauty and scenery that we live in each and every day.

Many of us take the Ohio River for granted. We drive beside it nearly everyday; sit in the park while our children play near it; watch baseball and softball games while overlooking it; and drive across it when we need to travel to our neighbors in Kentucky.

The River becomes just another part of our community to us, and over time it’s something that we barely take notice of.

But when the Swiss Wine Festival begins today, take a few moments and watch the reaction of visitors when they walk down toward the boat ramp. See their faces when they take a riverboat ride; eavesdrop on conversations and hear visitors talk with one another about how lucky Switzerland Countians are to live here.

Often times it takes an outsider to show us the beauty that we live around all of the time; and the festival is a time that we can all be reminded of it.

But with people coming into our community, the Swiss Wine Festival is also a time when the town itself makes an impression on visitors.

As people drive into Vevay, they look at our homes and yards and other areas and develop an idea about what kind of town they are entering.

That means that now is a wonderful time to spend the days before the festival getting our homes in shape to welcome our visitors.

Vevay is a beautiful town, but no place is so great that it doesn’t need a little cleaning up and tidying up. Especially the areas along the main avenues running into and out of the festival area; how things look gives people an immediate impression.

The Vevay Town Council has had its street sweeper running up and down the avenues in recent days; and other public areas of the community are being spruced up for everyone to enjoy.

This is not to say that Vevay and areas around Vevay are not well kept. In fact, in travels all around the country, Vevay is a town that I hold up as a measuring stick against other places that I visit.

We were always told as children that it is important to make a good first impression; and that’s what the community itself does as people drive in for the festival.

If those people have an enjoyable time here this weekend, they may come back in the near future and bring friends and family members with them. They will eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores. In some cases, people have been known to visit here, fall in love with the area, and move here.

The Swiss Wine Festival is indeed many things to many people; and as the hard-working volunteers prepare for four days packed with events; as members of the community we should do our part by supporting the festival ourselves with our attendance.

We should also take the time to make sure that a good impression is made on everyone who comes to visit. Switzerland County – as we all know – is a beautiful and wonderful place.

This weekend is our opportunity to share that knowledge with thousands of visitors.

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As you will see in a couple of other areas of today’s edition, the Swiss Friends of Animals organization here in Switzerland County has decided to disband. In fact, tonight’s “4-Paws Doggie Pageant” will be one of the group’s final events.

Before this organization fades into Switzerland County history, I think each and everyone of us needs to pause and remember the incredible work that this group did for this county.

Long before there was an animal shelter, the Swiss Friends of Animals saw a need here. They organized spay and neuter clinics to help control the pet population, which was getting way out of hand in various parts of the county. They wrote grants to help fund spay and neuter programs so county residents could have their pets fixed with little or no cost; and they lobbied Switzerland County leaders to fund and build and maintain an animal shelter here.

Its job accomplished, Swiss Friends of Animals is now doing something else that is rather unique – it’s going away.

Many times a group or an organization comes into existence because it sees a need; and then once that need is met, the group’s focus and reason for existence changes or blurs to the point that no one is quite sure what it’s doing in the first place.

It takes courage to start an organization such as the Swiss Friends of Animals – but it takes even more courage to know when your task is complete and shut things down and let others continue to march forward.

The folks who started and maintained this organization over the years are to be congratulated on their efforts; and I’m sure that although they won’t be formally organized, they will continue to care for the animals in our community who are unable to care for themselves.