Let’s Talk About Us: As in Richmond

Image by Anna WaddeloveOrganic.  Sustainable.  Fresh.   Craft Beer.  Local.  Big Ag stinks.

There.  Now we’ve said it.  We don’t have to talk about food anymore this week.  We’ve decided to talk about our town, instead.

The Brookings Institution ranked the world’s 200 largest metropolitan economies, and Richmond was #10 for the Least Dynamic Metros.  The report, summarized in The Atlantic, cited cuts in government spending and the financial crisis.  The worst on the list were, in order:  Athens, Greece, Lisbon, Portugal, Dublin, Ireland, Seville, Spain, Sacramento, California, Madrid, Spain, Naples, Italy, Barcelona, Spain, Valencia, Spain, and us.  Some bright points to the listing are that we are considered one of the 200 largest metropolitan economies and we’re not living in Spain.

We thought that we’d take some time and talk about all of the cool things that are going on in Richmond.

The River City rode pretty hard on the Picasso Exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.  We were one of the few cities in North America to host the collection, and we beat out Washington and New York to show it.  The VMFA followed that up with a Faberge Collection that added some loaned pieces to their current collection.  The permanent collection at the Museum is the largest collection of Faberge Easter Eggs outside of Russia, and the exhibit last summer became the largest collection in North America.  They’re currently featuring Secrets of the Tomb, which shows over 100 Egyptian artifacts from the British Museum.

We saw some real-life movie stars when Lincoln came to town.  Daniel Day-Lewis, James Spader, Chris Cooper, and Steven Spielberg were all hitting the Cary Cobblestones.  They weren’t the first movie to come through, and they shouldn’t be the last.  Movie Maker Magazine said that Richmond is one of the 10 best cities to be an independent moviemaker.  We’ve seen big Hollywood productions, but also documentaries on the Loving family, Hollywood Cemetery, and moped gangs (Satan Since 2003).  The moped doc went all the way to Sundance!  Who needs catering trucks?

In more news of art and art, next fall we’ll see the return of the Richmond Folk Festival.  It started here when we hosted the National Folk Festival for three years.  Then the National moved to Nashville and got all snooty.  We see great international artists at The National venue, so we changed our festival to “Richmond” and kept going.  For three days in October, thousands of people will come to town to hear dozens of acts at multiple venues.  It has become an internationally recognized event.

Parking for the Folk Festival is always entertaining, so a good idea would be to ride your bike.  That would probably be good practice for 2015, when we host the World Road Cycling Championships.  Think of it as the Tour DuPont on steroids (without the Floyd Landis jokes).  The Championships are going to bring a half million people and over $100 million to our area.  It is the first time since 1986 that the United States has hosted the race, and we beat out Oman, Paris, Copenhagen, and other big-name sites for the privilege.  Nine days of racing around town in several different categories.  Now we just need some more Bike Lanes.

We’ll get some practice in hosting big sporting events this summer.  We’ll be hosting the National Veterans Wheelchair Games at the end of June.  In addition to hand-cycling road races and slalom, veterans from around the country will compete in sports like archery, basketball, weightlifting, and quad rugby (Murderball, anyone?).  It’s kind of neat that over 500 athletes are coming to the home of the games.  The first event was hosted here in 1981 by the Richmond VA Hospital.

Dominion Riverrock will be back this summer, with trail running, bouldering, biking, kayaking, and flying dogs.  It brings outdoor enthusiasts from around the country for what has become the East Coast’s biggest outdoor lifestyle festival.  Why do all of these outdoor sportsmen come to us?  BECAUSE WE HAVE A RIVER!

Here in Richmond, we can literally say, A River Runs Through It.   Don’t know that we’ll see Brad Pitt fly fishing any time soon, but the water is there.  We are one of the few large cities in North America to be blessed with this sort of resource.  The James has seen a return of Atlantic Sturgeon, a species that is endangered, and we’re a breeding ground.  You can stand in front of The Urban Farmhouse and see Peregrine Falcons and Bald Eagles riding the hot air rising from the General Assembly.  A few years ago a manatee was spotted in the water just below the city skyline.  As you head west you’ll find prime canoe and fishing areas, just below Richmond is deepwater that allows passage all the way to the Chesapeake Bay, and it is the only place in the country where you can raft a class IV rapid within sight of skyscrapers.  You can go from City Hall to Hollywood Rapids in about ten minutes.

That gives us some ideas for City Council…

We’ve got a lot of really cool things going on in our city.  Sure, we need some work in the public transportation department.  We may or may not have our heads screwed on straight when it comes to baseball.  But we’re a city small enough that you can walk into a local shop or restaurant and know someone who works there.  We’re big enough that you can see a great band, enjoy some refined art, or run into an international celebrity.   We’ve got a great and growing food movement, and a committed community of small business owners who think big.

It seems that the bigger world out there is starting to notice.  What took ya so long?