A new Facebook page aiming to Keep Nelson Weird is garnering attention and gaining momentum.
Started by John Paolozzi on January 25, in less than a week, the site garnered 335 likes. Now, in early February, there are well over 400.
“There’s been a pretty incredible response,” says the former social media manager/blogger for CBC Radio 3. “That kind of growth is pretty amazing.”
On board with this fun project are Paolozzi’s wife Tammy Everts and Shambhala social media manager/director Britz ‘Bitz’ Robins. The crew is collecting photos and stories that reflect the unique nature of Nelson – evidence of the weirdness to be celebrated despite not being all that weird himself.
“I am not that weird. I am actually pretty middle class. I am married and I have two kids. I live in a house. I work,” he says. “But I like walking around town and seeing that people have sculptures in their front yard or gargoyles on their roof. Or people who’ve done cool little art projects around town.”
The Keep Nelson Weird effort mimics major movements in Louisville, Kentucky, Portland, Oregon and Austin, Texas where its roots lie.
“I’ve heard it described as a perfect storm of a number of different types of thought,” says Paolozzi of Austin. “It has Yankee intellect, southern heart and Western spirit. It’s those three things coming together in that weird place that make it very unusual. I see Nelson as something similar. It’s a frontier town, a place where people who don’t necessarily fit in come – from the Doukhobours to the draft resisters in the 60s to even Shambhala today.”
Paolozzi believes Nelson is the first Canadian city to officially “keep it weird” which he says is fitting.
“There is a different feel here and I think this really resonates with people,” he says. “People recognize that this is an usually good place and it would be a shame to see this disappear.”
As Nelson becomes more of an expensive place to live, as development takes off, does this city go the way of Kelowna or Osoyoos, he asks.
“I think there is a fear of that. It’s possible to avoid but we have to be aware of what’s going on,” he says.
Paolozzi points to the closure of the famous Waldorf Hotel, a cultural Mecca in East Vancouver. The artistic hub is sold and slated for condos.
“That stinks and that tends to be the trend,” he says. “That’s what’s happening in cities like Austin and Portland and that’s why people are reacting.”
He describes the Keep Nelson Weird effort as one that recognizes the things that give Nelson its character. From funky shops in a vital downtown core to festivals drawing world-class musicians to pirate ships sinking just off shore near Walmart, these are the things that separate the city from the status quo.
“At its most benign level, what’s weird about Nelson is you walk down the street and people actually say hi to you,” he says. “That’s weird by a lot of North American city standards.”
“People are friendlier in smaller towns and that hasn’t been erased yet. We’ve not become isolated from each other.”
The Facebook page aims to build on that sense of community, connect people and recognize the weirdness that makes for a thriving city.
“It’s not a fight against anything, more a positive affirmation that these are good values and these are worth keeping,” he says.
Next up, a bumper sticker, something Paolozzi has had in mind since before the Facebook page came to be.
“What’s the best way to get people excited about this – start a Facebook page,” he says.