We thoroughly enjoyed the Wild & Scenic Film Festival this past weekend, including our teenage son. We were glad to attend and to be a “Steelhead Trout Sponsor,” along with Capital Public Radio, BriarPatch Co-op and KVMR, among others.
We promoted the Festival in our magazine, along with some original articles and vintage photos of SYRCL and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder that we distributed throughout Northern California during the past three months. We also archived the articles on our website and “shared” them on social media. The story of SYRCL — a grassroots effort to save a river — is worthy of a book that can make our region shine. (More on that later).
As for the reach of this promotion, our magazine’s Facebook page alone has nearly 7,000 “likes” — more than local media such as The Union (whose website also is locked behind a “paywall”) or the Auburn Journal. (Well-regarded photographer Josh Miller, whom we feature regularly in our magazine and who shot the cover for the Downtown Grass Valley Welcome Guide that we published last year, was a chief photographer for the Festival, along with talented Kial James, who photographed the cover for our current issue).
The majority of the Festival’s attendees come from out of town, providing an “economic engine” in January for our inns, shops, restaurants, beer and wine tasting rooms, art galleries and others. We are glad to help support the effort; our magazine circulates in Sacramento, Reno, Lake Tahoe, Chico and other places well outside our “cul de sac.”
Along with attending the films in Nevada City — SYRCL’s home — we enjoyed watching more films in Grass Valley. It is clear that Grass Valley is embracing the Festival, as it seeks to become a “base camp” for outdoor activities. It’s been a long time coming. We were glad to see the Festival’s “ambassador” for Grass Valley wearing a “Basecamp Grass Valley” baseball cap at one of the screenings.
This year’s theme for the Festival was “A Course of Change.” Of all the events in our region — from Cornish and Victorian Christmas to the old-fashioned Fourth of July celebrations — SYRCL’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival has the best chance to redefine our region as a place that can attract young people, outdoor enthusiasts and people who are more in sync with what the rest of California is all about.
We need these people to grow our otherwise declining and aging population.
A “case study” is the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah — once a much sleepier town. (My great-grandfather was the co-publisher/owner of that newspaper at the turn of the century; he stirred the pot, I’m told, even back then).
As I’ve written before, our region suffers from a reputation of being a haven for right-wing political extremists — from our hometown tea party co-founder Mark Meckler to gun-rights activists to the State of Jefferson activists. Our local newspaper enables the extremist views. Some people label it the “Tea Party Gazette” — and justifiably so reading some of the opinions that it deems to publish (without much editorial oversight).
SYRCL’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival can help break that damaging perception, creating a place that is viewed as personifying all that is great about California: tolerance, diversity, wonderful outdoor amenities, a thriving arts and culture scene and more.
We have a way to go to “undo” the popular perception of our towns as being a little backwater, but we are making some headway. It’s good for business. And it’s long overdue.