ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: EXPECTED ADVERSITY

By James M. Decker

I’ve written in this space before about Stamford’s restoration and reopening of the downtown Grand Theatre. Since the first movie premiered in November, we’ve been humbled by the support from the Stamford community and throughout neighboring communities as well. Instead of being relegated to showing also-ran movies and blockbusters that are well past their expiration date, we’ve been proud of our ability to show first-run, blockbuster movies, in a first-rate environment, at the same time these movies open in larger cities.

If you follow me on social media, you know that adversity struck this past weekend. We opened “Toy Story 4” on the national opening weekend and had a fantastic turnout on Friday night...then our projector quit. Despite testing the movie earlier in the week, our brand-new, state-of-the-art equipment failed us. We renovated our theatre the right way, purchasing new equipment to avoid just these situations, and yet, here we are. Saturday’s attempts to fix the projector on failed. After issuing rain checks to Friday’s moviegoers, we were forced to cancel the weekend’s slate of showings.

And yet, the community’s response was tremendous. As our disappointed moviegoers left on Friday night, they were the ones to console and encourage our disappointed executive director, Suzanne Haterius Fusaro. As Suzanne posted an update on Facebook late Friday night, our Facebook fans encouraged us, told us they were glad the theatre was here, said they knew we’d worked hard to get it open, and that they knew we’d get this fixed. We received a steady stream of similar feedback throughout our weekend updates on Facebook. It was a reminder of the kind of community in which we live. The hopeful nature of the comments also reminded me why the theatre is so important and how, in only seven months, people have come to greatly appreciate their local option for affordable entertainment.

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This whole saga was also a reminder that in life, adversity is the rule, not the exception. No matter what community revitalization project we undertake, adversity WILL happen. High-dollar electronic equipment fails. People get busy and don’t give maximum effort to a group. Cleanup days have a lackluster turnout. New businesses struggled to find a footing. We get exhausted and struggle with our own motivation. 

It’s human nature. It’s the nature of the world. Things go wrong. We don’t always make the perfect decision. Others don’t hold up their end of the bargain. We’ve all heard countless cliché stories about the failures of Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and more. Clichés exist for a reason, because there’s truth behind them. There’s an old saying that if it was easy, everyone would do it. Rural revitalization is the same way. If turning around a rural community was easy, none of our communities would need our energy and our ideas. If improving the overall quality of life in rural America was easy, even the Washington politicians could have figured it out.

There’s another old saying that nothing worth accomplishing was ever easy. When we get down, when we get discouraged, when things go south, we need to remember that. That projector failing was a reminder of that very thing. I’m a man who likes to look for silver linings. We lost an opening weekend of revenue for “Toy Story 4,” and we disappointed some guests. That wasn’t fun. But in a silver lining, we received that wonderful, positive feedback from our community and it reminded us just how appreciated and how important our theatre project really is.

We’ll get that projector fixed and we’ll overcome our next adversity too. And in our rural communities, we’ll get hit with more adversity. But we’ll remember why we’re putting in the effort and we’ll get them fixed too.

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James Decker is a lawyer, farmer, and mayor in Stamford, Texas, and the creator of the forthcoming “West of 98” podcast and website. He may be contacted through Facebook at facebook.com/james.decker. Listen to our podcast interview with James here.

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