Last night's Believe in Syracuse event was a rousing success, so much so that I would like to recount it for posterity - or at least for those who were not able to attend. Even for me the night was a blur of exciting conversations, jokes, drinks, live music, and new friends met. So I imagine even those in attendance might want a recap.
On that note, here is the diary,
5:30 – The Believe in Syracuse committee showed up nice and early to make sure we were fully prepared for our very first social event. I envisioned taking about an hour to discuss all the talking points we wanted to hit, but everyone showed up looking confident and ready to go, so our “preparation” consisted of taking thirty seconds to set up some sign-in sheets followed by this conversation:
“Do you know what you want to tell people about Believe in Syracuse tonight?”
“Want to get some nachos and beer?”
Al's has excellent nachos by the way, and for beer I recommend Southern Tier Plum Noir, a really different tasting porter with just a hint of plum.
6:00 – It so happened that Believe in Syracuse was not the only meeting taking place at Al's that night. A friendly group called Philanthropic Foodies was also enjoying some food and drinks. Apparently their organization is designed to get people together regularly to enjoy gourmet food and wine, and also raise money for charity. They raised $20,000.00 last year alone, all while enjoying what I am told was some amazing food. How cool is that! Their website is www.philanthropicfoodies.org and I would recommend checking it out. Its amazing who you can meet in Syracuse on any given night.
6:30 – By this time the first people started to trickle in. My job was to hang out at the front of the bar and point anybody who did not know where to go towards the back of the bar where our meeting was going to be held. In no time I had a group of five people with me talking and enjoying some of the free drink samples Al's was giving out.
7:00 – Time flies, and somehow its already the official start of the event! I was consumed in conversation with my little group, so I only noticed one or two people come in and make their way to the back of the bar. It seemed like our small but fun group of five of was going to be the bulk of the gathering. Well, maybe not the bulk. I had six friends I knew were coming soon, and I was hoping that the other three members of our planning team could bring five people a piece so we'd have at least twenty people in attendance. Either way, it was time to head towards the back of the bar where the meeting was and consolidate our numbers.
7:05 – To my surprise there were not one or two people waiting at the back of the bar, but fifteen or twenty. With more and more people rolling in every minute.
7:10 – To my surprise, when my six friends came they were not alone, but brought others, some of which I didn't even get a chance to mention the event to. The place is starting to get seriously packed now.
7:20 – The final number of attendees was not twenty as I had hoped (or even thirty, forty, or fifty) but over sixty! I don't have the exact number, but I know it fell somewhere between sixty and seventy people. It was definitely standing room only, and when John and Steve got up to make their speeches the feeling for me (standing at the back of the crowd) was reminiscent of watching SU play Georgetown from the wrong end zone in the Dome. My point is, a LOT of people came.
7:30 - John Desantis, the founder of Believe in Syracuse, appropriately stood just underneath a neon sign that read JUST BRING AN HONEST FACE, and gave a short five minute speech about what Believe in Syracuse is. An organization promoting living in Syracuse by organizing professional, volunteer, and social events. He had a great anecdote about when he was looking for a job in Syracuse. He found it by volunteering and networking, and that is one of the things Believe in Syracuse will do for the community. If you need a job, Believe in Syracuse will be there to show you places to volunteer where you can make a difference and get noticed, and they will contact you with someone established in your field who has contacts and is willing to help. Great stuff!
7:35 – Steve Terzolo then got up and made a short speech about something that has me VERY excited, our plan to showcase Syracuse's neighborhoods. We want to hold fun events that will show off some of great places to live in Syracuse as well as volunteer to make the neighborhoods even better than they already are. These will also be great opportunities to connect directly with the people of Syracuse because that is what Believe in Syracuse is all about.
7:40 – Nothing but socializing for the rest of the night! I was excited to have a meaningful conversation with as many of the people in attendance as possible, and I was ready to answer some tough questions. What is Believe in Syracuse anyway? Aren't other organizations out there already doing what you want to do? What is your plan going forward? I had my answers ready too. Believe in Syracuse is designed to show you that the city you live in is the best city in the world. There are a lot of great organizations out there that are helping improve the Syracuse economy, but we are different because we work directly with the people. We are your personal agent. If you need to know what fun things are happening in Syracuse, we will show you. If you need someone to clean up your neighborhood, we will organize a volunteer group, if you need a job we will introduce you to someone in your field with connections. We are going straight to the people with something incredibly unique and special, and we are going to pull it off because we have people on our side who really, really care.
8:40 - After about an hour of talking to various people I realized that I wasn't getting a lot of the tough questions I was expecting. Instead I was getting a lot of enthusiasm. People sensed how much love we had for our community, they sensed how special this idea can be, and the limitless potential for growth there is when people who care get out and just do something. Instead of questioning it, they jumped in with both feet.
Here are some of the things I heard.
“I have an idea to bring many not-for-profit fund-raising endeavors together under one umbrella so more money can be generated for charity and community projects.”
“This is my first social networking event, and I am just so happy to see that there are other people out there who love Syracuse as much as I do.”
“I spent years traveling trying to find where I can make the biggest impact for the environment, and I finally realized it was in my own back yard, which blew my mind. I am in a place now where I can meet with Congressmen and I'd never have that opportunity in a bigger city.”
“Just let me know what I need to do to help. You are gathering enough people who care together to improve the entire city.”
“I was born in Floria, and traveled the world my whole life. I came to Syracuse to retire because it is the best place to live in the world.”
8:50 – Towards the end of the night somebody finally asked me a tough question.
“Why do you think Syracuse is the best city in the world?”
I thought about it. Really, we live in a very small world. For a few hundred dollars and a few hours on a plane you can go anywhere. In a world that small, there is no excuse not to live in what you consider to be the best city in the world. I live in Syracuse. So what makes Syracuse the best city in the world to me?
My response was, “It lives big.”
Obviously this answer required some explanation, so I talked about all the great entertainment options we have. Elite sports teams in Syracuse basketball and football. Amazing professional theater. An opera. One of the biggest malls in the world. A bevy of fun museums and art gallery’s. A festival every weekend during the summer. And what's better than Armory Square on a warm spring day when everybody comes straight from work to enjoy the sun and a couple of beers?
If you live in a city much smaller than Syracuse you are going to miss out on a lot of those options. If you live in a a city much bigger than Syracuse, you will pay for the extra size with a smaller house and a smaller life. You will meet a million people a year, but connect with few of them because the people you pass on the street every day are different people. In Syracuse you might only meet a thousand people a year, but you will find that you see the same ones over and over again and connect with many of them. Sure our city is much smaller than some, but our own individual experience has the potential to be huge. All it takes is a small effort to make something out of the existing Syracuse community, because Syracuse is that perfect size city. As Goldie Locks would say, its not too big, and not too small but juuuuuuusssst right. Its big enough to offer you endless entertainment options, and small enough for you to get anywhere in 15 minutes so you can actually get to those entertainment options and don't need to spend all your free time commuting to and from work.
In short Syracuse is the best city in the world to me because the foundations you lay here can be built into something truly beautiful. That's what I said. All of it. I'm sure I talked too much. I guess I was exhilarated about meeting so many amazing people in one night, but I felt then and I still feel now that its time to spread the word about Syracuse. I believe in it.
9 :00- A band called Pale Green Stars began playing, and I realized that I worked with one of the guys in the band. Who knew someone from my office had such talent? I'll say it again, its amazing who you can meet in Syracuse on any given night.