We have all heard it used in the marketing of a community–ours included–“a great place to live, work, and play”. I was recently able to attend three events that depict this theme and spirit within our community.
Coming Together to Address Gun Violence
It’s no secret that a dramatic increase in gun violence has plagued our Nation. And, Roanoke is no exception. Though overall crime continues its decade’s long decline, gun violence has increased dramatically in the past two years. This weekend, a group of residents and organizations came together, led by Bishop JL Jackson of Refreshing Church, nearly 100 residents from across the community gathered to make it clear they are prepared and willing to assist the Roanoke Police Department, the Roanoke Gun Violence Prevention Commission, and others to bring a unified end to the gun violence that has affected so many families. As the Mayor and Council have previously indicated, the City and police have a role. But, gun violence is a community issue that demands a community response. This latest event was one additional effort in addressing public safety that we welcome the support of all community stakeholders to also unify around.
Celebrating and Learning
Just around the corner from the anti-gun violence gathering at the Goodwill Industries of the Valleys was the Melrose Fall Festival, an annual event held outside the Melrose Branch Library. The festival, hosted through our Star City Safe initiative, which focuses on youth engagement and safety, offers an opportunity for families throughout Northwest Roanoke to gather and celebrate the arrival of autumn. This year’s festival offered pumpkins, food, free books, and opportunities to learn about a variety of topics and even have access to COVID-19 vaccination. And of course, visitors had the opportunity to check out the books and activities at the library and kids could enjoy the adjacent playground, courtesy of The Roanoke Kiwanis.
The tenth GoFest was held downtown for the first time, highlighting our unique blend of urban and mountain living. One could watch dogs retrieving items in pools; test a kayak or canoe; and learn about fly fishing, biking, or camping–all in the middle of downtown. This year’s event offered many of the traditional opportunities while enabling attendees to visit the many restaurants, retailers, or even shop at the farmer’s market. Concerts and movies were presented at the Elmwood Amphitheater and Holton Plaza doubled as a temporary beer garden. The festival is a great way to learn something new to do in the outdoors and celebrate the unique metro-mountain setting of Roanoke, here in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
Each of these events exemplified what it means to live in Roanoke–to be a part of a real community and highlight the work it takes to do so successfully, safely, and together. Roanoke is a special place and everyone working together to celebrate, play, and sometimes to work to end tragedy, is what makes it so!
-- Bob Cowell