Hitting the century mark

Milestone events always seem to lend themselves to reflection more than prediction, a focus on the path we’ve traveled rather than the road ahead. As press time for our 100th issue approaches, my thoughts are drawn down the winding path into the past, over the peaks and valleys of the last five years.

I remember the first conversation my dad, Denny, and I had in 2008 about starting a citizen-written newspaper for our community as a hobby. I remember the questions we asked ourselves – Will anybody want to write for it? Will anybody want to read it? – as much as I remember the questions we did NOT ask – How much time will it require? How will we pay to print it?

I remember the excitement of delivering Volume 1, Issue 1, and the discreet cell-phone photo of the first person I saw actually reading it in public. I remember the hundreds of hours and countless trips to the Bay Village and Westlake historical societies to assemble 200-year timelines of each city’s history for our bicentennial issues. I remember meeting Laura Gonzalez and asking if she would join us when we were growing faster than we could keep up. And I remember the nights of anxious insomnia that precede every new issue, a tradition that I still hold to this day.

But what I remember most, what makes this project worth every sleepless night and every ounce of blood, sweat and tears, is the genuine feeling of community and the people who have been a part of the Observer over the last five years.

It’s reading Dianne Borowski’s column and remembering to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life. Watching older-than-her-years Audrey Ray grow from a third-grade writer on assignment from her teacher, Martha Fisher, into an inspired and inspiring sixth-grade columnist. Jeff Bing laughing at our shared misery when our beloved sports teams predictably disappoint us yet again.

It’s Amy Brediger’s emotional outpouring to get the community involved in Relay For Life, Lysa Stanton’s enthusiasm for history, Dave Scullin’s clever explanations of colloquial expressions, Brenda O’Reilly’s passion for sustainability, Rachel Polaniec’s patio determination, Bruce Leigh’s sense of humor, the striking images captured by Carol Maat, Nancy Clark and Brian Ray, and the contributions of so many other citizen writers and photographers.

It’s the thousands of events we’ve printed over the years, hosted by our civic groups and their legions of volunteers who work tirelessly to make our community better. Pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners, antique shows, art exhibits, 5K races, craft fairs, tree plantings, carnivals, seminars and workshops.

All of this made possible by people from our two cities joining together over ink and paper to share stories about the good things happening all around us. The 600 volunteers who have written, photographed, edited and delivered the Observer for the past five years. The hundreds of local merchants that make space in their shops for a stack of Observers. The generous support of our advertisers, who know that they’re buying more than a box on a page – they’re contributing to sustain a community resource, helping to provide a voice for the non-profit groups and residents that would otherwise go unheard.

These are the things I see when I look back at the distance we’ve traveled in five short years, the words and pictures that line our shared path. With this milestone passed we turn to the road ahead,  our ranks growing as we march together toward the goal of a stronger, more active, more connected community.

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Volume 5, Issue 17, Posted 9:49 AM, 08.20.2013