So, yesterday, on behalf of the Connecticut Historical Society, I attended the Connecticut Conference on Tourism in Hartford. Firstly, it is inspiring to see the number of wonderful institutions across Connecticut that are so passionate about what they are doing. There was lots of learning opportunities with workshops about social media, using video content, reaching core audiences in ways that are relevant to them, presentations, networking opportunities and all that. What I left with, however, was insight.
What struck me most is that every person and every institution had something in common. It wasn’t just the fact that we are all from Connecticut or we are all stakeholders in the tourism industry and what the state is doing to bring people here; it was more. Everyone has a story!
Lunch was a perfect example. Have you ever randomly sat down at an empty table of 10 and just wondered who will be sitting with you? Who will you meet? What is their story? For introverts, this must be stressful, but for the extroverted personalities such as myself, it’s intriguing and filled with anticipation. A few people sit and you start small talking about what they do and where they are from and slowly the table fills up with others. Yesterday I was privileged to end up next to representatives from Lyman Orchards, Yankee Magazine, the Science Center, Frank Pepes (believe it or not, it was a guy who was in charge of “quality control” for the pizza places – delicious job) and some young looking guy in a white t-shirt and jeans.
Halfway through the lunch, which was delicious, I heard someone asking this young guy about himself and his story. Turns out he was from Branford (New Haven), CT and likes biking and not surprisingly, snowboarding, as he totally looked the part. He seemed pleasant but out of sorts at the conference, causing me to wonder what his stake in this day involved.
Several moments passed and the speaker began talking about having a special guest with us, who has been “an ambassador for Connecticut”. As I look over at this young snowboard “dude”, he pulls an Olympic medal from a small bag and places it around his neck. From the back I can read the works “Sochi.ru” – which if you didn’t know was the ribbon from the Olympic medals at the recent Winter Olympic Games in Russia. His name is Alex Deibold and he won a Bronze medal at Men’s Snowboard Cross – look that up if you haven’t seen it, it’s crazy! Turns out he is a nephew of one of the Frank Pepe’s principles and has been inspiring people with his story from Connecticut origin to Olympic glory.
Alex proudly, yet humbly, got up and addressed the crowd and thanked everyone and received a special Connecticut ambassador award. Upon returning to the table, he offered to pass the medal around to the few sitting with him. Um, yes please! It’s not every day you get to hold an Olympic medal, well for most anyway.
Medal or no medal, we all have stories. Stories that should be told; stories that must be told.
Engaging audiences with stories is one of the Connecticut Historical Society’s priorities. Sure, a gold and diamond bracelet from 1947 is lovely; but when the story is told of how the bracelet was given to Beatrice Fox Auerbach by her sister, Fannie, on the 100th anniversary of the G. Fox & Co. department store, it becomes priceless. The story behind the item is what compels us.
Of course, the costumes worn by Katharine Hepburn throughout her cinematic and theatrical career are interesting, but when you hear about how she insisted on being part of the creative design process or how a particular outfit represented her comeback, using her own money, to prove Hollywood she was not tainted box office poison – it becomes a fascinating relic to the past.
So, I urge you, take the time and listen to others and learn their story. Discover the stories of those who surround and those who came before you; you might be pleasantly surprised and your life may be enriched. Oh, and tune into Fox CT television at 9am on the first Thursday of every month in 2014 (including next week on May 1) and you will hear some intriguing stories From the CHS Vault – more on that next month.
Ed Main is the Communications Manager at the Connecticut Historical Society