Yesterday I posted my thoughts on this past weekend’s Lowell Folk Festival. Today, former Lowell City Councilor and local attorney George Ramirez shares his thoughts on the Festival and on the city’s long term prospects:
HURRAY FOR LOWELL
by George Ramirez
As I was sitting in my living room Sunday evening exhausted after walking for what seemed like an eternity in downtown Lowell, I began to reflect on the city’s now internationally-known Folk Festival. After a remarkable 29 years, it continues to amaze – scores of thousands of visitors, many traveling considerable distances, eagerly exploring our city and enjoying everything it, and the festival have to offer. From Boarding House Park to City Hall to the Dutton St. Dance Pavilion, and everywhere in between, folks were reveling in the sounds and sights of New Orleans Brass Bands, Cuba Orchestras, Native American singers and dancers, among others, and sampling some of the world’s greatest foods – Spanish, Asian, Greek, Jamaican, Polish, Portuguese, African, and many more.
I also thought about the herculean effort it takes to host this event – information booths, festival maps, coordination of restaurants and places to stay, coordination of vendors, rerouting of traffic, public safety (police, fire, ambulance), DPW recycling efforts, The National Park, The Regatta folks, the Chamber of Commerce, The Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, thousands of volunteers, the generous business and media donors, and so on and so forth. A truly astonishing feat, and it’s all for free! HURRAY FOR LOWELL.
My mind then wondered more broadly to the city in general. I thought about the Tsongas Arena and what a great venue it is for sports, family, and business events. LeLacheur Park continues to be a draw not just for Lowell but the region. The Inn and Conference Center has turned into a go-to place for events as well as a place where folks can comfortably stay the night. The three beacons of light in downtown – UMass Lowell, Middlesex Community College, and, yes, Lowell High School. The Merrimack Repertory Theatre, the Lowell Auditorium, the Lowell Plan and the Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust. The various businesses, and non-profits in the downtown – financial, legal, healthcare, retail, food and entertainment establishments, artists, workforce training, UTEC, The Coalition for a Better Acre, and many more. All these entities providing energy and a foundation of sustainability for the city. HURRAY FOR LOWELL.
Lastly, I thought about the future of the city. Are we headed in the right direction?
I think a fair assessment of our government officials from Washington, DC (Congresswoman Niki Tsongas) to the state delegation (Sen. Donoghue, Representatives Nangle, Golden, and Mom) to our local City Council and School Committee is that we have strong representation. City Manager Kevin Murphy and his administration are doing a good job balancing the budget, asking all the right questions regarding opportunities for economic development, and providing critical services.
We have economic opportunities on the horizon with the Jackson/Appleton/Midlesex (JAM) Plan, the Tanner Street Initiative, and the redevelopment of the Mills on Thorndike St. next to the Gallagher terminal for transformative development. There is renewed interest from the city administration and the business community on a plan for the downtown.
Our public school system has many diligent, dedicated teachers and administrators, all committed to properly educating our children. The new high school planned for the downtown will be a great addition and if Headmaster Brian Martin stays involved it will be delivered on time and on budget
The neighborhoods (the Acre, Pawtucketville, Centerville, South Lowell, the Highlands, Belvidere and Downtown) are the backbone of the city. The places where the hardworking men and woman of this great city live and raise their families are on the upswing – new businesses are emerging, beautification efforts have increased, and there is a growing and civil conversation between neighborhood groups and city officials on public safety, land development, and local services.
So, after some careful thought, I determined the answer is overwhelmingly, “Yes, Lowell is headed in the right direction.” HURRAY FOR LOWELL