We've lived in our town for a little over eight years. Before I moved here, I was all over the internet checking it out. I wanted to know if there were town "groups". Stuff to do. Shared experiences to bring the town together. While I grew up in a small town, I didn't ever feel like it was very cohesive. It may have been and my family just wasn't part of it. I just knew that for where I was settling, in my forever town, I wanted to feel that close-knit thing other have. I felt like that would be possible in a place that had groups in place to give the chance of that bond. I know the town I grew up in didn't have a "Newcomers" kind of group, at least by the time we got there.
I found the Newcomers & Neighbors group on the town website. I immediately emailed and said we were moving to town and I wanted to get involved. Someone got back to me and told me they would be having a kick-off event in September. We were moving in late August and that was perfect.
We moved in and we joined. I heard about this thing called a Progressive Dinner. I was told it was the most popular event of the year and it was always sold out. I never heard of such an event. It's where you all start out at one house for appetizers for about an hour or a little more. Someone gives you a name tag with what house you & your spouse be going to for dinner, you separate, and then you meet up with everyone again for dessert and/or drinks. Over the years there have been sixty to one hundred people at this event.
That first year I thought we'd be hospitable and host the dessert portion. They couldn't find anyone to do it so I jumped at it. Of course I found out why no one wants to be the dessert house a bit too late. When I told B we were going to be the dessert house, let's just say he wasn't pleased. Clearly, that's where the night gets crazy. Everyone has been drinking since the appetizer house, through dinner, and you're the last stop. Sometimes an unfinished keg ends up in your yard. At least it did in mine! Honestly, it was fine. I don't even have the kind of house conducive to entertaining more than eight or ten people, let alone sixty, but it was still fine. Luckily that year it was in October and we had an unseasonably warm night. Most people hung out in the backyard. We had someone on the board of the Newcomers & Neighbors kick everyone out around 12:30am so it wasn't an all-nighter.
It was fun. It was just part of exactly what I was looking for in a town. They had other events we attended (or just me), like a wine & cheese night, Ladies Night Out, and a book club. We didn't have any kids for the first three years of our time in town. That's kind of odd here where many people have strollers with stadium seating for their brood. They did have a "D.I.N.K.S." division of the group which stood for Double Income No KidS. We went out a few times with that crew until one by one, those couples started procreating. But it was definitely a cool way to connect with people from town. Especially before you have kids, you tend to just live your normal routine, no matter where you live. You go to work, see your current friends, and nothing really changes. No school functions or obligations in which to meet people. Being part of the Newcomers forced us, in a good way, to socialize with people in town. That really helps you put down roots. To feel like you are really getting the most out of where you live.
Now it's been eight years and we're no longer "Newcomers". But we are still "Neighbors". That's the cool thing about the group- it ebbs & flows and you can always be a part of it. We stopped paying the yearly dues for around two years, just because we were busy after having a kid, with work and just life stuff. The board regimes have changed over a few times- some have been better at planning and organization than others. If you didn't have the best experience at some other time, a year could go by and it's all fresh. Old events have changed or been axed, new events have become tradition. But the core mission stays the same- to unite the townspeople. And it does.
We went to the Progressive Dinner this past weekend after not attending for a few. We had so much fun. We know the people running the show but we hardly knew any of the attendees. Most were more recently additions to town. The host for the appetizers has the perfect house for this kind of thing. Huge open floor plan and lots of room to mingle. The hour and a half went by in a flash and then it was on to dinner. We lucked out and got someone we knew for that portion. There was another couple we knew but hadn't seen in awhile and two couples where I had met the wives but hadn't spent any time with them. Finally, so coincidentally, I grew up with the wife of the last couple. I knew she moved to town and had run into her a few times but we are like ships passing in Kilroy's (little market in town). It was just a really great mix of people. Also why I drank a bottle of Moscato myself. You know, "when in Rome...". We were just having so much fun that I kept at that bottle and next thing I know, Sunday was really rough. But that's another story.
This year, they ended up doing dessert at the house you were assigned to for dinner. Like I said- it's not easy finding a dessert house. But they gave everyone a drink ticket for the Glen Rock Inn to meet up after dessert. We went over there from our dinner house but it was like being at Quincy's/The Junkyard on a night The Benjamins were playing or something. PACKED. We were out in like fifteen minutes. Besides- we'd been out since 7p, it was already after 11p and I'm now forty. I'd had enough. Yeah, yeah, ":::shakes cane:::"
Even if you're not typically a joiner, if you have a Newcomers kind of group in your town, you should check it out. It's definitely one of those things that you get out of it what you put in. If you make it to events, even just now and again, you meet cool people. Instead of having to travel far for fun, you can pretty much find fun right around the block.
Thanks to all the people who made Saturday night possible. Katie Manning (Ms Prez), her whole board, the host homes, RoCCa, etc.
Glen Rock Newcomers & Neighbors: http://glenrocknewcomers.com/