John White: I Heart Castlegar stirs surprising emotions

It is very fulfilling to witness and take part in this kind of social interaction in the community.

A tip of the hat to Shawna Tarasoff as the driving force behind the I Heart Castlegar event last Friday and Saturday in Castlegar.

There were 35 downtown businesses taking part by flying the red balloons and offering special promotions throughout the two days. There was also a draw that rewarded a lucky winner with $800 in $100 gift cards, at their favourite participating merchants.

Everywhere I went downtown, there were red balloons drawing in the eye and another business to discover. I went to my massage appointment on Friday and was awestruck by the number of people in the office, chatting with staff and entering the draw. It was the same story all over downtown.

It is very fulfilling to witness and take part in this kind of social interaction in the community. Each new place I visited, I felt truly welcomed by the staff or owners of the business.

What a brilliant way to introduce the community to the people who keep the heart beating. It was a real jolt of positive energy to downtown, and Castlegar in general.

What’s interesting to me is this energy is pervasive here. I’ve noticed it more and more as I go about my business in a given day. It’s that more personal sense of community that is difficult to match in larger cities where you are one of a million people trying to get by and find your path to happiness.

It’s actually affected my approach and instincts when meeting strangers. Instead of letting the fear of a neutral or negative response colour my energy, I now to try project a positive vibe, and it is quite liberating. It may be a chicken/egg thing, but it sure helps to start off with this positive energy in new interactions.

I feel like this is one of the key elements in the region’s periodic table that encapsulates the “Kootenay vibe.” It certainly seems to be a major contributor to my low — almost non-existent — anxiety level every morning. Long-time residents could probably tell me if they think this is a small-city thing or a Kootenay thing, but I love it regardless of the origin.

The more obvious influencer of mood may well be the awesome beauty of the nature surrounding us. It’s difficult to look in any direction without getting a face-full of stunning vista. If you’re in the midst of some kind of strife, you need only look up for that calming sense of “aaaaahhhhhhh.”

I was warned soon after arriving here that some people have a claustrophobic reaction to living snugly between the mountains. But I actually have the opposing reaction — I draw comfort from the sensation and I’d say it feels like I’m being hugged by nature. Considering I lived on the bald prairie for most of my years, you’d think I’d be susceptible to that closed-in feeling. Nope.

Combine these stimuli with what I experienced during I Heart Castlegar, and you have quite the emotional connection.

When Shawna talked about her motivations for launching I Heart Castlegar, she stated it was an opportunity for residents to “shop, socialize, and savour” and to bring some excitement to the downtown. Man, I sure felt it.

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