Tuesday, December 4, 2012

discover long branch! brings diners, trike riders to el golfo

Giant Tricycle Outsde El Golfo
El Golfo Restaurant, home to the first Discover Long Branch! event.
As I wrote last week, the Flower Theatre Project has been working with the Long Branch Business League, a group of local business owners, in the hopes that a more robust neighborhood economy will make the area more attractive to the kind of investment we need to bring the Flower back to life. Yesterday, the Business League hosted their first-ever Discover Long Branch! event at El Golfo Restaurant on Flower Avenue to raise awareness of a great local business. The Montgomery Housing Partnership helped with logistics and programming, and the county's Department of Housing and Community Affairs provided financial support.

Over quesadillas and El Golfo's famous chocolate mousse, I got to spend a great evening with folks from Long Branch and beyond who are excited about the future of the Flower Theatre. I also passed out our new spiffy flyer, summarizing our efforts over the past four months. Almost every table was full, and the mood was buoyant.

Santa Claus Visits Discover Long Branch
From left to right: resident Dave Lemen, business owner & president of the Long Branch Business League Carlos Perozo, Father Christmas (played by James Wilt, senior manager of the Community Thrift Store and a Business League member), and transit activist Tina Slater.

Even Santa Claus showed up with gifts for everyone.

My Dream For Long Branch
The board reads "My dream for Long Branch is/Mi sueƱo para Long Branch es."

In the lobby, there was a chalkboard where people could write out their dream for Long Branch in both English and Spanish. The board was built by Jeff Gipson, an architecture graduate student at the University of Maryland and intern at the Montgomery Housing Partnership. The responses ranged from pragmatic ("More money into schools") to intangible ("well-being") to literal ("Flowers on Flower Avenue"). I was excited to see quite a few mentions of the Flower Theatre and the Purple Line.

Howard Connelly's Tricycle
Connelly rides his giant trike up Flower Avenue.

Outside, there was a giant tricycle built by artist Howard Connelly of Colesville, who offered us all rides. The tricycle was first commissioned for Takoma Park's Independence Day Parade and later participated in the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race, though readers might recognize it from its normal perch outside Connelly's house on New Hampshire Avenue.

"Just Up The Trike." Photo by Dave Lemen.

Connelly built the tricycle himself using recycled pieces including steel and wood. Though it weighs about 250 pounds, it can go pretty fast and make some sharp turns. I was a little nervous at first, but it quickly passed and I felt like a little kid going down the big slide at Wheaton Regional Park again.

The best part was watching people react as they walked past. Kids and adults alike asked to ride it, and Connelly gladly obliged. One gentleman who was clearly drunk stumbled down Flower Avenue cursing at the top of his lungs until he passed the tricycle. It was enough to make him stop and stare for a second before he resumed walking and yelling.

While the Flower Theatre Project began as a way to bring an old theatre back to life, it's given me a chance to get to know the Long Branch community as well. Over the past four months, I've met neighbors, community leaders and business owners who are genuinely excited about their neighborhood and its potential, and it's infectious.

'You're Gonna Get Some Hop-Ons'
Reminds me of Arrested Development: "You're gonna get some hop-ons."

Thanks to everybody who came out last night! The Long Branch Business League hasn't announced their next Discover Long Branch! event, but judging by the success of this one, I hope they will soon.

1 comment:

Tina said...

Long Branch is a great area with lots of amenities (Long Branch library, food stores, delis, computer stores, liquor store, terrific restaurants --- I HEART El Golfo!!, a dollar store, a community center with fitness equipment and outdoor pool, playgrounds, lots of housing). The Purple Line will be just that much more "excitement" and energy flowing through the veins of the Long Branch community. And the revitalization of the old Theatre (I went there as a kid) in whatever new "transformation" could be a real draw, a real attraction for the community and with clever planning could become a destination place for neighbors far and wide --- neighbors who could get there via the Purple Line!!