I have covered my share of meetings over the years, and my visit to the Morrisville Town Council meeting might be the only one that had both bagpipes and Indian blessings, all within the first few minutes.
Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve been to a meeting that had either.
Last Tuesday, the Town Council made history by holding its first meeting outside Town Hall in 22 years. As I pulled up to the Hindu Society of North Carolina, a steady stream of cars was turning in from Aviation Parkway, and plenty of people were filing inside.
Town officials said they wanted to have a meeting elsewhere to encourage more people to attend and engage with town leaders. The move paid off big time. A record 450 people were in attendance, including dignitaries, visiting public officials, candidates, Boy Scouts and dozens of members of the Hindu Society.
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And while there was plenty of business to cover on the agenda, the big takeaway was the feeling of history in the making and the pride in the town’s diversity, particularly the contributions of the Indian community.
One speaker recognized how a “small sleepy Southern town has embraced us.”
Or maybe the town and the Indian community have just embraced each other. These residents have made Morrisville their home, and have done their part to make a difference.
Take Dr. Gangadhar Sharma and his wife, Saroj, who moved to the area in 1972 when there were fewer than 10 Indian families. They were instrumental in building the Hindu Society’s temple and vast hall that’s been used for weddings, religious ceremonies and gatherings. They somehow had the faith and confidence that establishing such a place would mean other Indian families would follow.
Plenty more came, establishing themselves in business, science, technology and education. They had children, set down roots.
Mayor Mark Stohlman praised the Sharmas as well as entrepreneurs Sajjan Agarwal and Kanu M. Patel for being visionaries.
Council member Steve Rao, the only Indian elected official in Wake County, was moved when it was his turn to talk during the period reserved for council member comments. He was proud to represent the Indian community and for its influence in the area, from bringing cricket to the town’s fields along with mango chutney and a spirit of innovation.
As I dove into a plate piled high with Indian food (with just the right touch of kick), I talked to people about how they’ve seen the area grow, evolve and form its own identity.
And I thought about the town’s plans for a new branding campaign, and how the Chamber of Commerce is touting Morrisville’s demographics and amentities on its website to lure new business.
Stohlman thanked the audience – filled with women in colorful saris sitting alongside men in sharp suits – and council for doing something “totally different.”
Gangadhar Sharma used the word “dare” when praising the town for choosing the Hindu Society building as the site of Morrisville’s historic meeting.
Moving forward, the key will be for the council and the town’s residents – Indian or otherwise – to continue the bold and daring steps that were on full display Tuesday night.
Scaring up business
Scarecrows have taken over downtown Fuquay-Varina, and they didn’t bring Dorothy or the Tin Man with them.
Downtown business owners have decorated all kinds of crazy and creative scarecrows as part of a new competition. Since they were put up earlier this month, people have gone scarecrow hopping, for lack of a better word.
In addition to taking lots of pictures alongside the scarecrows, people can vote for their favorites. They’ll be on display through Nov. 4, though the winner will be announced at the town’s Chili Cook-off Nov. 1 on Depot Street.
People’s Choice votes cost a quarter with proceeds going to the downtown association and the town’s food pantry. A panel of judges will award prizes for first, second and third places. For more on the self-guided tour, go to www.fuquay-varinadowntown.com.