Northshire's secret marketing weapon

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When clouds and low fog hang over the mountains and the rain seems to never let up for more than a few hours, one wonders if spring has truly arrived, or if it's just a rumor circulated by the people who print desk calendars.

It's easy, with dreary skies overhead, a damp chill in the air and cold mud under foot, to get worn down by bad news and trouble and lose sight of the goodness around us.

With that in mind, it's time to spread some sunshine around town — because that's what plenty of people do here on a regular basis.

One need look no farther than the story in this newspaper about the Penguin Plunge, held on March 25 at Stratton Mountain. That event raised more than $25,000 for Special Olympics Vermont, in weather and water temperatures better suited for actual penguins.

That wasn't the only example of generosity last weekend, as the Empty Bowls event at Long Trail School raised money and awareness for efforts to fight hunger in our region with delicious soups and hand-crafted bowls.

If there's one thing we've noticed about the Northshire, it's that people are willing to give freely of their time and resources, in ways big and small. The gestures can be as grand as the shelves and public spaces of the Manchester Community Library, or as subtle as the time taken to help prepare and serve a free community dinner at a church. Each and every gift matters.

In all the conversation about regional marketing and business development, we've heard a lot about what Manchester and the Northshire should emphasize in selling the region to visitors and would-be residents. There's the growing list of promising events that will bring athletes, TV producers, foodies, and music lovers to town. There's the shopping experience which continues to attract so many visitors to Manchester Center. There are mountains, rivers, lakes and trails for skiers, anglers, hikers and bikers to enjoy. And if you love golf, we've got plenty of that, too.

But there's one more key difference that maybe ought to get some consideration: Our region's people, and the way they treat visitors and neighbors.

World-class attractions and unrivaled resources are great, but it's interaction with people that folks remember, for good and for ill.

Not every town welcomes outsiders the way Manchester does, or has as many folks who genuinely care about paying it forward once they're here. Whether it's support of cultural institutions or making sure the less fortunate are not forgotten, people here show they care on a regular basis. It's not just a "be nice to folks with out-of-state plates" thing. The spirit of generosity from people of all walks of life, from the convenience store coffee counter to Town Hall, has been noticed and greatly appreciated. It is consistent and pervasive.

That's a point of pride — and a story worth telling.

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