Last week, I got the great opportunity to re-visit with Nikki and Jason Wynn, the couple who came through here last June to judge Mount Airy in the Friendliest City contest.
While they were here, I got to take some time and sit down with them to see how they’ve been. I asked them where they’ve gone and what they’ve done. However, the real question I needed the answer to was, “Why didn’t we win?”
I followed them on Facebook last year because they posted videos of all of the towns they visited. After visiting six cities, they ended up choosing Walla Walla, Wash., as the friendliest city in America — a title that we were certain would be ours, simply because we honestly believe we are the friendliest city.
All along, I thought maybe we didn’t win because Walla Walla had three weeks notice to get ready, whereas Mount Airy officials only had two days to prepare. And the folks in Walla Walla took them up in a hot air balloon. That’s pretty hard to top. Here, they got a ride in a squad car, and while that is pretty cool, it’s no hot air balloon ride.
In the end, I found out that the Wynns only gave each town two days notice, but with the way the world works these days with media at our fingertips, of course the people in the towns being judged easily found out that the Wynns were on their way.
So, why didn’t we win? They said there were so many things they liked about each city and of course everyone they encountered was friendly, especially the ones that knew why they were there. But they tried to gauge the friendliness of the people who weren’t aware of the reason for their visit. In the end, they said, they picked Walla Walla because of its diversity.
Nikki said that city had people from all walks of life. She said there were people of all colors, ages, nationalities, even folks covered with tattoos, and they all blended together. Basically, there was something for everyone.
Thinking back on our own community, while I get to attend several events like Kwanzaa and Black History Month celebrations, I don’t see many white people at those events. Even at the Budbreak Festival pre-festival party, I saw four of my African-American friends there, but that was it out of a crowd that I’m sure was over 250 people.
I’ve never been asked to cover any Hispanic events for the paper, but that’s because the newspaper is rarely informed that any are taking place.
When I get my nails done, I come into contact with the Vietnamese people of this area, but that’s the only time I ever see them in this community.
Did you know there is a whole community of Hmong people living in Mount Airy? Well, there are, but you would never know it because you never hear anything about them. The Hmong people are an Asian ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. They were singled out for retribution when the Pathet Lao took over the Laotian government in 1975. Tens of thousands fled to Thailand seeking political asylum. Eventually, thousands of refugees resettled in the United States in the late 1970s.
There is a nice lady of Asian decent who sells produce at our local farmers market. I never see her anywhere but there. Surely she must have family here, but I’m not sure where they live, what they do or where they go.
All I’m saying is that while Mount Airy has so many great things going for it, I wish we could add to that list the thing the Wynns pointed out as our weakness, and that is having more diversity. Do we really just want to live in a community that is just one boring flavor? Or do we want to celebrate people from all walks of life? Personally, I think we could do better if we all worked together to have a community that represents all cultures, races and walks of life.
Mondee Tilley is a staff reporter with The Mount Airy News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1930.