Murch: People make Alpena special place to live

Gee, after the previous three weeks this week almost seemed like a letdown. This was the first one in four weeks where we didn’t have crowds downtown for some event, and it almost felt like something was missing.

That’s one of the things that makes Alpena a special place to live – people care about the community and are engaged in the process of making it that way. Where else can you draw 500 people (in a county of roughly 30,000) in the middle of a non-holiday weekday?

Think about the previous three weeks for a second, each had an event that drew crowds. You might get bigger crowds in bigger communities – if the people decide to turnout at all – but you won’t get that kind percentage of residents turning out for them.

The week before Thanksgiving on a Tuesday at 1 p.m., about 500 people showed up at Culligan Plaza to watch a President Lincoln impersonator, Mayor Matt Waligora and Besser Museum Director Chris Witulski ride down Second Avenue on horseback then have a re-enactment of the Gettysburg Address – almost to the minute it happened 150 years ago.

It speaks volumes to the character of Alpena that there would be so many people making time in their day to come down to see this. There might have been a few who did it to play hooky from work, but you couldn’t find them in the crowd because everyone seemed to be enjoying the event.

Move forward to the next week and the Friday after Thanksgiving. Alpena holds its annual holiday parade in the evening and thousands of people line the streets to watch the parade – in the dark and cold. Then a couple hundred continue to brave the weather following the parade for the annual Christmas tree lighting in Culligan Plaza. This event has been enjoyed by residents and visitors alike for years.

Then finally last week, well over 100 people showed up for the filming of the video to be used by the Main Street Street Committee for a presentation, again in the middle of a non-holiday workday. Bundled up, they walked down Second Avenue behind the actors and crossed over to Culligan Plaza (again) -for two takes to make sure the film crew got the shots they needed.

While the weather cooperated, I have a feeling we still would have seen about the same turnout all three times because that’s what we do in Alpena, we support the community and the people who live here. It’s just part of what makes this a special place.

It can be a bit frustrating sometimes listening to the naysayers, especially given that the naysayers never actually do anything to “fix” what they perceive is wrong. But that is society in general: those you can do, those you can’t or won’t, just complain. Every community has them and there is no avoiding them.

Over the years, I’ve had lots of conversations with people about what they love about Alpena and they all have something big that everyone can relate to, but they all have small things that means something to them and the rest of us might not understand.

This week I had a conversation with someone who told me the wood pulp smell we get from DPI from time to time is a fond memory. Her father used to work at the plant years ago and she got to go in there when she was young, and that’s a happy memory for her. Not everyone can relate to the reason why the smell gives her warm memories, but we all relate to the smell. Yet, I’m sure we all have memories about Alpena that only we find special and others don’t.

But regardless of the memories we have, or the reason we love Alpena, the one thing that will always leave a lasting impression is how this community gets involved and comes together. From all the fundraisers big and small to the filming of a music video, the residents of Alpena get behind them.

There is a great sense of community among the residents, and they are the reason Alpena survives and shines.

Steve Murch can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5686. Follow Steve on Twitter at sm_alpenanews. Read his blog, Pardon, Me But … at