Around the Fire: At the Hearth of Peterborough Community Connections

Howdy, Peterborough.

How have you been?

I’ve missed you.

While I’ve got you here, do you mind if I tell you a story?

Thanks. It’ll only take a second.

Back in the early 2000s (which, in these post-pandemic times, might as well be Middle Earth), I was walking down George Street with my brother, who was visiting from out of town. It was between Hunter and Simcoe, right by the Olde Stone Brewing Company – a difficult block to navigate without bumping into acquaintances. Having already stopped for two chits and a chat, we attempted a swift beeline toward our destination, the pub, only to encounter another friendly face.

“Who was that?” asked my testy and sarcastic brother, who obviously felt that Peterborough was conspiring to keep him from his beverage. “The Mayor?”

“No,” I smirked. “That was our MP.”

A few strides up the sidewalk, I noticed a small well-dressed gaggle. The faces were all familiar, and a few offered waves in my direction.

“That,” I laughed, pointing to one of the wavers, “is the mayor.”

Eyes, let me tell you, were rolled.

But that was Peterborough to me. And to so many others.

Its a place where so many business owners, political types, artists, and random students know each other by name—a close-knit small city that encourages and fosters creative ideas, solutions, art of all mediums, political participation (and vocal activism), and community-building.

I can think of no other place in Canada where a person could go from walking in a door to volunteer at a local environmental org (hello, Peterborough Green-up!) to being given free rein to create adventurous (and sometimes audacious) communications programs to penning a weekly environmental newspaper column in the city’s daily paper within the span of a few weeks.

Yet, that was my first (and decade-lasting) gig.

Or where you could convince the local TV station to give valuable airtime to a weekly environmental segment at a time when small non-profits didn’t have any place on local television.

Or where local radio stations would run with almost any zany community-building content you came up with, as long as it would entertain its listeners.

Man, I thought. You can get away with anything in this town.

And you could. If it was for the greater good. If it was about lifting everybody up.

I would say that those first few years at Green-Up opened almost every door in the city to me, but, really, they were already open for anyone to walk through. I will say that it offered me professional connections—and friendships—at City Hall, in our media outlets, across the volunteer sector, throughout the arts scene, and with so many of the businesses, small and large, in and around Peterborough City and County.

It allowed me to start my own business, where I put those skills and passion for community that I had gained to valuable use.

And it informed and supported everything that I’ve done professionally since.

Peterborough, for me, remains a place where crazy whims and musings are given the encouragement and support to become galvanizing programs and events. But, again, only if it is about making positive change.

There have been a few times when musing about community-building ideas online that I was chirped, challenged, and eventually supported by community members to take action. One of these was the hilariously successful Petertweeter Awards that had individuals, orgs, businesses, and institutions all eagerly vying for what is believed to be Canada’s (if not the world’s) first social media awards show, replete with red (or rather plaid) carpet. Another was the Farm to Table Culinary tours that ran for ten completely sold-out years of local food and local business promotion.

The early infrastructure for both came together in a matter of days, none of which could have happened without community buy-in; and neither of which, I truly believe, could have happened in any other city I know.

Man, I kept thinking. You really can get away with anything in this town.

Life and career, however, took a turn as I accepted an offer to work at Trent University—already a client of my Small Print Writing and Consulting business. While the experience was enjoyable, and provided incredible opportunities, another shot at launching full suites of both media and social media programming, and a chance to Forest Gump my way through a Canadian who’s who of interviews, it gradually distanced me from the heartbeat of the Peterborough community that meant so much to me.

So, after a decade of dedicated service with Trent University, I am thrilled to announce the launch of Around the Fire—an exciting venture that brings me full circle to the community where my career first took root.

Around the Fire is more than a business; it’s a renewed commitment to the community that has fostered and supported a uniquely vibrant arts/culture, NGO, small business, and community service scene—and one that encourged my own professional growth and sometimes insane-sounding ideas.

Around the Fire‘s goal is to show individuals and organizations that, yes, if you dream it, Peterborough can make it happen; and helping your stories, ideas, and aspirations get the attention that will allow them (and you) to thrive.

As I launch Around the Fire, I’m eager to reconnect with the familiar faces and organizations that have played a pivotal role in shaping Peterborough and to forge new connections in the Peterborough of 2024. The opportunity to collaborate once again with this incredible community is both an honor and a source of inspiration.

Around the Fire is not just a service provider; it’s a reflection of the enduring connections and shared stories that make this place special. I look forward to warming myself by the flames of local creativity, collaboration, and community engagement as we embark on this exciting journey together.

Thank you for being a part of this new chapter—let’s create something remarkable, Around the Fire. 🔥✨

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