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Monday, May 9, 2011

Can you find “Happiness” in Howard County??

We all know that Howard County scores well a desirable place to live. We recently scored as the second best place to live in the country by Money magazine. Forbes has recently listed Howard County as having the 5th highest per capita income in the country. Does money buy “community” happiness any more than it does for individuals? As Garrison Keillor describes Lake Wobegon as a place where “all the children are above average” so too could we describe our county. We would never want to think of ourselves as being “just average.” But how would we score on the “happiness” factor? I wouldn’t be surprised to see us score high on that standard too but it got me thinking about what makes a “community” happy.

Recently CBS Sunday morning did a segment on the happiest communities and Boulder Colorado scored the highest and Huntington West Virginia scored the lowest. I would bet we have attributes closer to Boulder than Huntington. We have good schools, an educated population, honest government, great library system, great recreational opportunities, good ethnic restaurants, many civic and nonprofit organizations and so many clubs and social activities it really is hard to be bored. But how do you define “happiness” and how do you translate that to a “community.” Who is looking at our community happiness and what would the job responsibilities of a Howard County “Fun Czar” look like? I have a few suggestions but would welcome suggestions from others.

1) Have more public art that expresses fun and place it in unexpected places throughout our community with a theme that changes each year.

2) Have our community become more “quirky” or “offbeat” and highlight it like Austin Texas promotes itself in its “Keep Austin Weird” campaign.

3) Festivals, Festivals, Festivals--especially something in winter like an outdoor ice skating area somewhere in Town Center

4) More public gardens—maybe something on the other side of Lake Kittamaqundi

5) An amusement area

6) More outdoor restaurant seating

7) A unique parade to celebrate Columbia’s birthday celebration on Little Patuxent Parkway. Maybe one with cars from the 1960’s.

8) A children’s museum that combined fun and education

9) A local version of the American Visionary Museum and its parades. Main Street Ellicott City has some "unique" stores that could pull something like this off. Close Main Street for a walking mall and parade with this "unique" theme.

10) Burning Man Columbia??? Seems like a Columbia thing. Kinda like what happened in the parking lot at the Mall when the Grateful Dead played at Merriweather.


Anything more fun than a great book to read on the lazy hazy days of summer? The Howard County library will have a kickoff to its summer reading program for kids on June 4th. I am sure they have some great books to read this summer for adults too.


Brent The Brewer said...

I sure know I'm a heck of a lot happier since moving out to Howard County. I worked and lived in Silver Spring for 10 years before moving to Howard County. At the time I knew I wasn't happy, but I didn't realize that I was miserable either. It was only since I moved up to HoCo that I realized that it sucked living down in Montgomery County.

I agree with all of the ideas posted on how to make Howard County more fun. I've always argued that the way to fight obesity is by having more outdoor activities, not taxing junk food or sodas. So I totally agree having more public gardens, public art and festivals.

I'm not sure if they have one in Columbia or the other towns/cities in HoCo, but a "Taste of " would be an awesome addition. I always enjoyed attending the ones in Bethesda and Wheaton when living in Silver Spring. It gives people the opportunity to sample foods from restaurants they haven't be to yet without the investment required for a full meal.

One last idea is to set up a sort of "Passport to Howard County" where you get a stamp for visiting various places around the county. If you visit all the locations you get a t-shirt, gift card or something cool. Make sure you toss some locations or events in there that are really cool, but off the beaten path or currently not widely known. I think a lot of people, especially those with kids, would be really into that.

Great ideas though.


duanestclair said...

I love your "Passport" idea. Could be combined with a scavenger hunt day to the different locations.

duanestclair said...

The more I think about your passport idea the more I like it. I have some ideas on how it could be done if you were ever interested in talking a little about it.

Brent The Brewer said...

Sure I'd love to talk about it. Only thing I ask is that we wait a week. I have a super busy week ahead.

Or if you are going to the blog party on May 19th, we can talk about it there. Whatever works for you.


duanestclair said...

I will be out of town next week but the week after that is good. Email me at to set up a time.