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It’s time to root for our hometown

Imagine for a second if Natchez and Adams County were a football team and each of the citizens were fans.

What would a Friday night or a Saturday afternoon game be like?

Would we proudly wear our team’s colors?

Would we sit in the rain, heat or cold to watch the big game?

It’s almost difficult to imagine, particularly if you think deeply about our nation’s near-worship of football.

If you spend more than a few minutes with a diehard college football fan, you’ll quickly realize these folks often know all the players and coaches by name.

Many fans know the team’s statistics and even history. I once knew a guy who had committed to memory the score of every single game his team had played over the last several decades.

Fans gather together to tailgate when they can make it to the games or they meet in groups to watch far-away games on television. They spend millions and millions of dollars on merchandise supporting the team.

But somehow our community seems to get far less favorable treatment.

Whereas a college game night might draw hundreds of local fans, a city or county meeting is considered “packed” if 40 people were to show up.

Most college football fans could easily rattle off the names of six current head football coaches.

Would those same people be able to recite the names of city aldermen or county supervisors?

Hopefully they could.

A level of apathy has gripped our community for many years. The comfort of the status quo stopped positive movement forward for a while and in the process allowed a slow decline of many things — including civic pride.

That’s one of those things we may not notice in its absence. But it’s clear to see when it’s present.

Years ago I recall driving through Texas and noticing the state’s sense of pride. The state’s star symbol was generously applied to highway signs, overpasses and even bridges.

A recent trip through Arkansas illustrated this too. A simple stop in the small town of El Dorado for a bite to eat showed a sense of civic pride and purpose that would be the envy of other small towns.

El Dorado is only slightly larger in population than Natchez, approximately 18,000 to Natchez’s 15,000. The county surrounding El Dorado is a good bit larger, however, 39,000 to Adams County’s 31,000.

El Dorado’s downtown was clean and lively. Signs were easy for out-of-towners to follow. We were intrigued enough to follow the signs directing us to the Murphy Arts District. A restaurant, amphitheater, playscape and splash pad were at the end of a short walk.

Clearly, their fans were serious ones.

A little research into the group shows the non-profit that leads the Murphy Arts District was formed in 2011 after the city of El Dorado sought help in coming up with an economic development project to reverse its declining population.

Investing in the creation of an arts and entertainment district certainly wasn’t easy — or likely popular. But from a tourist’s perspective, the town has put its best foot forward by using its collective fan base.

Interesting, the FOR Natchez development plan calls for the creation of an arts district and an entertainment district.

Think of it as a game plan, a playbook if you will.

We have the game plan; we have the players; and we have the coaches.

What we need are some dedicated fans who will pull together and say, “Come on, guys! We can do better than this.”

Downtown Natchez can, and should, be bigger and better than any football game, but we’ve got to get on our collective game face and start cheering.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.

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