What a night, what a night!!

Last night, Bennett participated in the first ever “Show of Hands” Community Grant Funding Program, put on by the Downtown Wheeling, Inc. members.  It was awesome.  Four people/groups were selected to present to a crowd of community members that would vote for their favorite pitch that they wanted to be awarded a cash prize to fund their projects.

Anyone who wanted to attend was invited.  I think they had anticipated around 30 people to show up and it resulted in a PACKED house, with well over 100 community members.  It was amazing.  The prize was $1,000 in start-up funds from the amazingly generous global law firm that has headquarters here in Wheeling: Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.  But that wasn’t all…the winner also got to take home all of the money that was collected at the door as entry donations from the attendees.  The more people that came, the more potential money there was…if memory serves me correctly, it totaled up to $1,720 for the grand prize amount. 

I think what I liked most about Show of Hands was how much love for Wheeling and excitement for development of our town there was in one single space.  The Children’s Museum of the Ohio Valley (CMOV) just purchased an old church in the Centre Market area, which they plan to renovate, restore and relocate to by 2016.  CMOV was awesome enough to open their doors to the people of Wheeling and hosted the event there.

It was really neat to see the inside and dream of what was to come.  We love the CMOV currently and are looking forward to spending time in their new home in the future.

They had live music by a local artist.  Might I mention that I loved it, thought he was crazy talented and Louis had to correct me from dancing and singing the entire time.  Apparently I’m an embarrassing mom already.

I’m so incredibly proud of Bennett.  His love of photography has brought him to such a special place because he did it for the right reasons.  He wasn’t seeing photography as a way to make a quick buck…he has been doing it because he loves to take photos, he loves the art and creation of it.  And now he’s turning his love into something that benefits our family and the city around him.  :: swoon ::

I wish I’d kept the paper so I could paraphrase what each presenter was speaking about.  I’m sorry to all of you in advance for possibly botching this completely.  I really mean no harm!

The funny thing about our “competition” was that they weren’t really competition at all.  All four presenters are in the same group of friends.  And they were all rooting for each other…there was no animosity once the winner was announced.   Bennett and I were happier than anything to see each of these people get a moment in front of a crowd, to spotlight their efforts in our great city.

Our friends Patricia and Andrew Croft were there, representing 3rd Friday at Artworks.  It is a art and music filled event that happens every third Friday of each month.  They have a “no cover” policy, which is both no cover for entry and the musicians play no cover songs.  It’s comprised of local bands playing their original pieces, while being surrounded by local art and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere with your friends.  (BTW, tonight is the third Friday of May…so you should probably go and check it out for yourself!)

Our friends Danny Swan & co. were boasting their efforts with Friendly City Foods.  They somehow got the entire crowd to declare, “I want your M.O.M.” which is an anagram for Mobile Organic Market (please correct me if I’m wrong with that guys!!)  They are working to bring healthy, LOCAL produce and other goods to people that don’t have easy access to it in Wheeling.  Our grocery stores around here generally are unreachable by the lower income areas and require transportation to them.  They are attempting to bring MOM to the people, so they can get the good, healthy stuff. 

These guys were able to score the highest votes and took the grand prize.  Congrats!!  We are so excited to see what you can do for our city!

Bennett was there to talk about the Meet Me in the Alley photography project.  He has been working to create an outdoor showcasing of the portraits for his final art ex
hibit with the photos from the collection.  His plan is to draw as many people as possible into downtown Wheeling, talking about downtown Wheeling and being a part of downtown Wheeling.  It’s one of those “if you build it, they will come” moments.  Giant prints will be wheat-pasted to an empty wall and the gala will be held for anyone who wants to attend (and see their own portrait up there with the others).  I think it will be powerful to see all of the photos laid out, in one giant collection…all walks of life represented.  So excited!

And last but not least, our friend Matt Welsch got to share his plans for the Vagabond Kitchen.  You guys, I’m so excited for Matt and his wife Katie.  They are about to open a restaurant in town that will blow your mind.  Together, they have 20 years experience in a professional restaurant setting.  They are creative, sweet, giving, talented people and I am really looking forward to spending a lot of time in their new place.  Great atmosphere and great food?  I’m totally sold!

Want to know the best part of all of this?  When we were happy to have someone else win the cash prize – everyone was shocked to hear that the (outrageously generous!) sponsors, Orrick, were willing to donate to ALL FOUR of the presenters.  So not only did four people walk away with seed money to help grow their businesses & projects…but the City of Wheeling walked away giant winners because there are four projects that have been aided that much more into making their efforts come true.  So stinking awesome.

It was a blast.  Seriously.  I’m so excited to attend the next one (coming up this fall) and see what else the dreamers & doers of Wheeling will be bringing to the table.

Before I go (and I do apologize for having the longest post in the history of posts) I have to share these pictures of Louis and his bestie , Carson.  When Carson showed up, Louis ran up to him and they bear hugged each other.  They are the sweetest duo and I’m really hoping to cultivate this into a friendship that lasts through the years.  They attend school together right now and will be doing so (at least) through next year in JK3.  They are adorable.

I’m proud of our city.  I’m proud of our friends.  And I’m especially proud of Bennett.  Because, you know…that whole being married to him and crazy in love with him thing kind of trumps everyone else.

Yay Wheeling!