September, 2019

COLUMN: Looking back over 25 years of changes

Summerland Review editor has reported on the community since 1994

Today marks my 25th anniversary of working here at the Summerland Review.

That’s 1,300 issues of the paper. Over the years, I’ve written somewhere between three million and four million words for this newspaper.

The numbers surprised me. It doesn’t feel as if I’ve been here all that long, and there are still plenty of things I am continuing to learn about this community.

I have often said that Summerland felt like home from the moment I arrived here. But it’s also a home that has gone through some big changes over the years.

In 1994, we didn’t have Sunday store openings. In fact, quite a few places were also closed on Monday.

The Kettle Valley Steam Railway was not yet operating its tourist train service when I arrived. Today, the train is one of our top visitor attractions, drawing people from around the province and around the world.

The British Columbia wine industry was still in its infancy in the mid-1990s and there were just two wineries operating in Summerland when I started working here.

Today, Bottleneck Drive represents more than 20 wineries, cideries, breweries and a distillery in the community. These numbers are continuing to grow.

In the 1990s, Summerland had murals on many downtown buildings and the core of the community had a unique design theme.

Today, many of these murals are gone and the design theme, first called Tudor and later called Old English, has been abandoned.

We might not have our Old English theme anymore, but today we have two rainbow crosswalks downtown — something that was not even considered in the 1990s.

And there have been plenty of other changes as well.

Summerland today is quite different from Summerland in 1994.

I’ve also seen some transformations at this newspaper and in the news media.

When I started working here, we did not yet have email. Today, stories are posted online throughout the day and readers are able to comment about what they are reading.

The move to digital communications has also affected the way the news is presented to readers.

While some of us were talking about the possibility of online news in the mid-1990s, I doubt anyone could have predicted how much it would have affected our world.

Not everyone will appreciate all the changes Summerland has seen over the years. And some would like to see this community go back to what it was in earlier years.

READ ALSO: COLUMN: The future isn’t what we thought it would be

READ ALSO: COLUMN: Looking back to a time of optimism

But it isn’t possible to turn back the clock or to hold on to a moment, no matter how good it may be.

Besides, the most important quality in this community has remained, despite the changes Summerland has seen.

There’s a special warmth here.

Time and again, I’ve seen the people of Summerland come together to help someone in need or to support a worthwhile initiative.

And I’ve also experienced this level of warmth myself, many times over the years.

Some of the people I met shortly after I moved here are among my closest friends today.

People have accepted me, even when I have had to cover controversial and divisive issues in the community.

The kind reception I have been shown is something I do not take lightly. I’ve known people working in news media elsewhere who have not felt this level of acceptance.

Looking ahead, I won’t even hazard a guess as to how this community will change in the next 25 years.

And perhaps those changes won’t really matter.

The warmth shown by this community is its most important asset.

As long as this remains, Summerland will continue to be the same wonderful community I discovered 25 years ago.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

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