It was mild weather for the season, a refreshing 35 degrees out energized the Middle Main-iacs as they made their way to the Middle Main Monthly Meet-Up last Friday. While the sun set impressively as it does over Poughkeepsie, the first few people trickled into a warm and festive (Valentine’s Day fever) dining room in El Patron. Enrique and his crew are used to catering events, even larger than this one, so they had everything flawlessly prepared by the time 5 PM rolled around. The large serving table was draped with a cover fit for a banquet, atop were generous and delicious appetizers (chips with salsa and guacamole, flautas de pollo, and nachos supremos) and an assortment of desserts that looked even better than they tasted.
Colorful balloons attached to the welcome sign outside the entrance flew around in the wind almost eagerly welcoming the Middle Main-iacs and passers-by alike. After each person arrived and got settled, but before they took a plate and a fork, Maddy handed them the El Patron Scavenger Hunt within the wall murals (kudos to the talented painter, Richard Harbstreet) and they set out in search of two-dimensional cowboys, tombstones, and very realistic looking large animal skull. Participants were surprisingly willing to complete this fun but tedious task prior to trying the delicious food.
By 6 PM everyone had arrived and the inside of El Patron was alive with chatter and munching. People seemed very happy to see each other (winter isolates us more than we realize) and also to be inside El Patron for the first time (for many). For a change, there were children at a meet-up event; they were Enrique’s children and probably required to be there because both parents were, but regardless, the greater diversity of ages was nice and made for a feeling of family, of a neighborhood with people from all stages of life. Furthermore, atmosphere inside grew was genial and celebratory, enough positive energy to get through the rest of winter radiating from the individuals present, all with some connection to the neighborhood, all genuinely interested in seeing it continue to grow, beautify and strengthen itself through the individual and collaborative efforts of its energetic, strong willed stakeholders.
Next, personal conversations and mingling came to a halt as Community Development Coordinator Lindsay Duvall spoke of the Made in Middle Main neighborhood marketing campaign, introduced and recognized proud El Patron owner and head chef Enrique Sanchez as the first committed business partner. There was a very nice and well received symbolic ribbon-tying in which Enrique "tied" El Patron onto the fledgling neighborhood business streamer that will continue to grow with new business joining the campaign.
The above mentioned artist of the murals, Richard Harbstreet, came to the event and we acknowledged his beautiful project covering nearly every wall space of the restaurant. He even brought a freshly painted piece to try to sell.
Raquel, the other waitress whose name escapes me, Veronica and Enrique took such great care of us- really went above and beyond to make sure everyone enjoyed themselves and there was plenty of food and drink.
My favorite thing to observe at any gathering of this type is the lingering of people in the space well after the event has ended. It shows me that there are relationships being developed, excitement rolling over from projects worked upon or ideas shared. Neighborhood organized events like this bring together people who exchange their stories, their recent trials and tribulations, their accomplishments and milestones, their hopes and visions, all of which might not have met if it were not for this local community that supports them with its networks and resources, and which they nourish in return with their creativity and fruitful efforts.
All in all, the meet-up / first official business partner recognition with accompanying ribbon-tying was a great success- the restaurant was filled with high spirits and most importantly, residents and business owners had the chance to come together, rejoice and look towards the future with hope and optimism.