Our next stop of the day was a wonderful tour of The Mother's Day Shrine from the ever-so-knowledgeable Larry Richman. Now I don't know about you, but when I think of a shrine, I think of a small area, perhaps a raised table or shelf, showing special importance of something that you quickly view and move on. I could not have been more wrong. The Mother's Day Shrine in Grafton is breathtaking. It's something I feel is very sacred to the city and people of Grafton, as well as to tourists. While touring the building, we all took a small break to sit in the second-floor pews of the church-turned-shrine while Larry played beautiful and harmonious melodies on the organ for us. I am unable to find exact words or feelings to express that very moment, so for lack of better words, it was special. That was the second moment that it hit me. Pride. Larry has pride for Grafton.
After the Mother's Day Shrine, a few of us from RF Branding Group, our capstone course agency, made our way over to the Mountain Statesman, which is Grafton's newspaper. There, we saw some familiar faces from the lunch and met some new folks. Advertising Manager Bryson Taylor spoke with us about a typical workday and the news they produce, along with the dedication and love he has for his work and the city. We were lucky enough to tour the building and see just what they do. He spoke highly of the newspaper, the youth in the community, and the local businesses and people they work alongside of. Bryson explained that he commutes about an hour every day to and from work because that's how much he loves the city of Grafton. There it was again. Pride. Bryson has pride for Grafton.
Our next stop of the day was to walk around Main Street to check out local businesses, organizations, and people of the community. Being the craft-loving, obsessed-with-cooking-and-baking kind of gal that I am, I immediately gravitated toward the adorable shop called Arts and Treasures. Tom Hart and his wife, owners, pleasantly greeted every person who walked through the door. I was amazed to see how rustic and homey this little shop truly was. Naturally, I couldn't help but to buy something. I purchased a lovely framed felted message that reads: "We May Not Have it All Together, But Together We Have It All." I originally purchased it because it's something my family has always said, but thinking about it now, this quote accurately depicts how I think many people of Grafton feel about their community. I visited several other businesses and shops on Main Street, and there was still something I could not get out of my head. You can probably guess it by now, but it was pride. Every single person I spoke with exuberated pride in multiple levels.
After purchasing the frame, speaking with many people, and grabbing a coffee, I along with the executive leadership team, department directors, graduate student consultants, and our professor attended the Community Branding Initiative (CBI) Branding Committee meeting in the City Council Building. There we gathered in a larger circle to discuss ideas and plans. We had the opportunity to speak with the committee about what we plan to do, and ask them what they would like from us. Personally, this meeting made me even more eager to have these wonderful people to work with throughout the semester. Even I was beginning to feel, you predicted it, pride for Grafton-- and I don't even live there!
Lastly, a few of us made our way back over to Arts and Treasures to experience some First Friday activities. This was the perfect end to an already perfect day. The theme was 'Chocolate!' And who could really complain about that? Right? Everyone enjoyed chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate cake-pops, a chocolate fountain, and more! All while listening to live music while some people sang and danced along. It was apparent that the people who gathered at First Friday events were abundantly happy, cheerful, and proud to show us their town.
Around 6:30 p.m. I found myself jumping back into my car and heading back to Morgantown. As I was driving away from the city I couldn't help but think about the generous people, small businesses, and historical settings of Grafton. As external account executive, I cannot wait to work alongside RF Branding Group to make strides in this community branding initiative for Grafton. They want to hone in on the unique identity that reflects whom they've always been, but they are just as eager to look forward and improve the future for their youth. Grafton is a place that people call home and always return to. It's where family, memories, and history have been made. And it's bubbling with promise and its people's commitment to an increasingly bright future. You see, the thing about pride is, you either have it or you don't. The city of Grafton definitely has it.
I'm Antoinette Yelenic. Toni for short. External Account Executive for RF Branding Group. I hope to lead the agency well, assist in the creative, public relations, and digital media departments, and successfully communicate with the people of Grafton to brand their community into what they envision and beyond. I'm an overly positive and passionate Pittsburgh gal who loves advertising, event planning, coffee, cooking, and baking cupcakes.