By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times
I’m always impressed with Cullman, but taking stock of what you have accomplished in one year just boggles the mind. Since the tornado, there is a new energy in this town and in this county. And it’s not only since the tornado; it was just magnified by the storm.
What is really impressive is what you’ve built up over the years. And when you ask people about it, you find that most of it started with an idea.
Chester Freeman’s idea for a park is a wonderful example of what can happen when someone has a really good proposal for the community and the support of its citizens. In reading back over a previous article on Freeman, there was a quote that jumped out at me. “People were excited about it and wanted to be a part of it,” said Freeman.
There’s the key ... people in Cullman want to help bring good things to this community. They want to share them with others. And they will work together to get the job done.
Another example of an idea come to fruition is the Walk of Flags at Depot Park.
It all started, as most great ideas do, with the vision of one person. Then it blossomed into a possibility when Martha Burchell spoke to Mayor Max Townson. After the Mayor gave his approval, she took her idea to the Kiwanis Club, whose members were enthusiastic about the project, as well.
Burchell had vacationed in Warm Springs, Georgia, that year. She visited the “Little White House” at the F.D. Roosevelt State Park, where she was awestruck by the beauty and patriotic sentiment of the Walk of Flags there. “Why couldn’t we do something like this in Cullman?” wondered Burchell. The more she thought about it, the more excited about the prospect she became. “I got so excited about it that I couldn’t sleep,” said Burchell. The idea caught on and the Kiwanis Club kicked off the fundraiser on Pancake Day. As usual, Cullman got behind the project and more and more people heard about the Walk of Flags and began to get involved.
Today, because of one woman’s vision, Cullman has a beautiful and inspiring tribute to our country waving proudly in the breeze for all to enjoy.
Last week Garlan Gudger and Peggy Smith were invited to speak to a Downtown Merchants Association in another city. They outlined the process by which Cullman has reclaimed its once struggling downtown area. People were blown away by the success of the plan, and at the speed with which Cullman rebounded from such a devastating blow.
It’s time to pat yourselves on the back, Cullman. Maybe this year at Celebrate Cullman you should do just that.
Look around you at the beautiful parks, the historic buildings, the newly planted trees and the continuing efforts to rebuild a cohesive, attractive and inviting downtown area. It was hard work, no denying that. But you stepped up to the plate again, and like Chester Freeman said, “People were excited and wanted to be a part of this.”
In talking to various civic leaders like Randall Shedd, Waid Harbison and Leah Bolin, the subject of what it is exactly that makes Cullman such a committed community came up several times.
There was no pat answer to that question, but what most people agreed on was that it is the spirit of the community, that willingness to jump in and help for the common good.
There’s another key element of what makes Cullman work — what is good for one segment of the economy of Cullman just enhances the other parts of the whole.
As Gudger pointed out, growing the downtown area has attracted new industry, restaurants, small businesses and unique shops, all of which bring in tourists and tax dollars. Utilizing those tax dollars as a reinvestment in the community has proven to be one of the catalysts which helps to attract more and more interest in Cullman. It’s a cyclical thing that has worked, and worked well.
Perhaps one other vivid example of an idea that started small and became a sensation was a little girl’s desire to help stranded animals. When Maddie Grimmett saw victims of the oil spill she was moved to help them. She sold lemonade. That’s a pretty simple concept…in the end she raised over $20,000 in donations, both through the actual sale of the lemonade, and from people who saw what one little girl could do and were moved to share her vision.
Maddie is at it again, as you saw in last week’s Lifestyles section. One little girl with a big heart or one community with a common goal and a “can do” attitude can move mountains.
And something else I’ve noticed about Cullman…I’ve never heard anyone say, “We can’t do this.”
Remarkable, isn’t it?
So, here’s to you, Cullman. You have united to make yourself stronger. It’s working and working well. Keep it up!