Local Schmocal: By ZoŽ Abel — After my trip to Disneyland, I've decided Ashland needs to become more like The Happiest Place on Earth.
After my trip to Disneyland, I've decided Ashland needs to become more like The Happiest Place on Earth. Since Ashland has gone part way to becoming a tourist town, why not go the whole way and make our little corner of the world a destination theme town? The theme could be "liberal small town filled with art and wine lovers." Well, maybe a consultant from Disney could polish up that name — I'm sure they could do better.
Instead of being called locals, or non-tourists, we could be called Cast Members. Your job at the downtown coffee shop is no longer simply a job, but a part to play. You're a small town girl, slightly naive, but full of opinions regarding politics, art and organically grown local wines.
I think the other idea we should take from Disneyland is uniforms. Depending on where you work in town, you'd wear a different outfit. Downtown could be flowing hemp garb dyed with plants grown in our backyards. People living and working toward the outside of town would wear tie-dye and bandanas. And everyone else, the supporting Cast Members, would wear the tried and true Oregonian uniform of khakis and fleece.
Something I found incredibly impressive about Disneyland was the attention to detail. Everywhere you looked, there were interesting things to gaze at, even when stuck waiting in line. Shakespeare actors could practice their monologues for people waiting to check out at the grocery store and, of course, we could hire on a few extra naked people to wander through town as a testament to freedom of speech and expression.
Ashland could also go full throttle with our desire to be represented as a community that supports the arts. Artists would no longer be allowed to have their own private art studios (the new spaces could be turned into little restaurants, as apparently a town of our size can support dozens more of those). Artists would practice their art right on the side of the street, where people can gather and watch and get sold $10 vegan corn dogs. Really, Ashland never gets that cold, and isn't suffering an important element of creating good art?
As I have been repeatedly told by opponents of the meals tax, Ashland should do everything it can to encourage more tourists to come to here. We shouldn't just do away with the meals tax, but require that every aspect of our town exist for the sole purpose of our small town theme park. City Councilors could roam the streets in oversized costumes of themselves for people to have their picture taken with, and the bike taxi could be repackaged as a ecologically friendly roller coaster. Everyone in town would drive a Prius, and the cars would be painted with whimsical designs just like the utility boxes in the downtown area.
Of course some sacrifices would have to be made. Probably we shouldn't allow anything useful or necessary to be sold within city limits. People would have to drive out toward the freeway entrance to buy things like flashlights and underwear. Bi-Mart would be outlawed — really, the store sells way too many practical items to be feasible in our new theme town destination. It's not too much to ask local Cast Members to drive out to Medford for toothbrushes and towels, right?
My guess is that the Disney consultants would suggest that the Cast Members don't live on site anyway. Ashland could get opened up in the morning and close after dusk (we could possibly extend the hours for weekends). Besides, for those who work in the hotels and inns and Shakespeare-themed bed & breakfasts, we could all hop on a special shuttle bus every morning and evening to bring us to and from our roles as supporting, small town, art-loving folk.
Ashland is a town full of people who work passionately. I'm sure turning our town into a real tourist destination isn't too lofty of a goal. Instead of paying mediators to teach our City Council how to get along, let's use those consultant fees to bring in someone from Disneyland to show us how tourism is really done.
ZoŽ Abel rode Splash Mountain 10 times and it's gone straight to her head. Contact her at email@example.com.