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By Meg McGurk

Let the Games Begin!

By Meg McGurk Posted July 24, 2012 at 9:10 pm

There is a commercial running on television right now for a credit card company where citizens of a fictional town pool their card reward points and host a community celebration for the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

I’ll hand it to their marketing company — the commercial is exhilarating. It perfectly conveys the Olympic spirit of coming together, rallying for your team, and the sweeping feelings of national pride that flow every four years with the Olympics. The commercial is so inspiring that it prompted Megan Wooley, who works in the Planning Department at the Town of Chapel Hill, to call me up and propose an idea. She had seen the commercial and thought: Why don’t we hold a community celebration in downtown Chapel Hill during the Opening Ceremony just like the commercial?

We immediately put our ‘team’ together. We found a wonderful partner and sponsor in Kildare’s Irish Pub, and honestly, where better to host an international celebration than in our downtown Irish pub? Kildare’s manager Margaritte Malfy and her staff completely embraced the event and added their own ideas.  Kildare’s kitchen crew has created a special international small plate menu featuring beer & food pairings from Ireland, England, Mexico, Belgium, and USA.

Megan started contacting every local international group, community organization, and friends with an international connection and invited them. We have ordered decorations, organized Olympic games (bingo & trivia), and kid’s craft activities.  And since fashion is key to the Olympics Opening Ceremony – we decided dressing up as a favorite Olympian or in national attire deserves a prize!  Kildare’s will have the televisions tuned in to the ceremony all evening; but we envision this as a social gathering of friends and family, and definitely friends-to-be.
 
No Olympic trial wins are needed for this event — the event is FREE, open to all, and certainly family-friendly. Join us on Friday, July 27 from 6PM to 9PM at Kildare’s at 206 West Franklin Street. Parking is easy — especially when it’s FREE and just across the street from Kildare’s at University Square. There is a designated area of the lot marked by the blue lines and signs for free parking starting at 6PM every night of the week. For more details on parking, visit www.franklinstreetparking.com.
 
When Megan had the idea to gather the community to celebrate the Opening Ceremony, she naturally thought that it should be held on Franklin Street.  Just like the Olympics, downtown Chapel Hill invokes those feelings of pride and the desire to come together with your community and rally for a win — it truly is the heart of our community.

I’ve been with the Downtown Partnership for five years; but only two months as the Executive Director. Professionally, these have been the two most exciting months for me since I’ve been here. I have felt my own great surge of energy for downtown. But what’s been most inspiring for me is the volume of conversations that I’ve had that start with …”I have an idea for downtown…”

Some people –like Megan– have ideas for events, some are focused on issues that need improving, and some people have seen something unique in another city and think it might work here. These conversations mean that downtown Chapel Hill is always on people’s minds, and they feel empowered and motivated to get involved. Even when the conversations are steeped heavily in what needs improving downtown, it comes from their desire for our downtown to be the best it can possibly be.
 
When Megan called me and proposed her idea, my answer was an immediate yes. It’s too early on in my ‘game’ to say no to anyone who has an idea for our downtown.  And I still want to hear more ideas and thoughts from everyone. Even if there are perceived obstacles or limitations that may prevent that idea from becoming a reality — I want to hear from you!

10,000 athletes will walk in the Parade of Nations at the Opening Ceremony on Friday, and every one of them believes they will return home a victor.  Right now, we all feel that downtown’s possibilities are just as endless, inspiring, and medal-worthy. 

So: Let the Games Begin!

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