In my other life I work for a local community access television station based – handily for me – just a mile or so up the road from Christmas Days. GNAT-TV – short for GREATER NORTHSHIRE ACCESS TELEVISION – is one of about 25 so-called “community access” stations around Vermont, and one of hundreds nationwide. We bring you a lot of the non-commercial stuff you wouldn’t see on cable or network television. Community events, local news, educational lectures and coverage of local government meetings are the basic wheelhouse.

Last summer we began to hear about a group of local residents who were getting together to organize a committee to see what they could do to “bring the shine back” to Arlington, a small town – really a village – that most people pass through on their way to or from our shop. Best known in recent years and decades for being the home base for Norman Rockwell, the illustrator whose paintings provided the cover art for the Saturday Evening Post back during its heyday in the 1930s and 40s, Arlington is one of those classic little New England towns with a picturesque covered bridge (and only a stone’s throw, literally, from Rockwell’s former studio), and a batch of Revolutionary War history as well.

In recent years though, and paralleling other rural areas around the country, folks have watched as younger residents and graduates of local schools moved away and weren’t coming back, and other indicators seemed to be hinting that things were not  in a “growth” mode. So the project has moved forward, with committees formed, and local residents are tackling areas like arts, education, public safety, economic development and recreation to bring back a sense of pride in the community some feel has been lost (others think it’s never gone away in the first place.

Discussions about place, community self help, uniqueness and development are of interest to me, and it’s fascinating to see how some towns let themselves get bowled over by historical forces seemingly beyond their control, while others seek to find new approaches when, say, the local economic bedrock shifts or when times change. Building and capitalizing upon strengths that already exist – even if slightly hidden – is a wonderful sight to behold and one many communities across Vermont and the rest of the nation – especially in rural America – is essential.

So as one of the few surviving “mom and pop” shops along our little stretch of Route 7A still surviving from when we first opened up nearly 50 years ago, and having watched many others come and go, we’re cheered and heartened to see this reinvigoration getting underway. The building blocks of the process are fascinating, and we’ll all hope for a good outcome as well.

A couple of special summer events are planned – one around a celebration of Norman Rockwell’s famous “Four Freedoms” paintings which – coincidentally – were published on four consecutive issues of the Saturday Evening Post in 1942, shortly after Pearl Harbor. This event will be taking place later this summer and we’ll reming you about it when the time nears.

But there’s already plenty of reasons to travel through the area, not the least of which is so pretty spectacular scenery and friendly people. So why wait?

Here’s an interview I did recently with two of the leaders of the Arlington Renewal Project – hope you find it interesting.

The News Project: In Studio – Back to the Future, Arlington Area Renewal Project