Sir: “Chatham sucks” is a common saying spouted from the mouths of young Chathamites on the streets and in the bars of the city. It’s a phrase I’ve heard over and over from the 20-somethings I’ve met since moving to the city two years ago.
I asked some local residents how they felt about Chatham. Some have said there is nothing to do here, and that for young people, it’s turning into a retirement city.
People my age seem shocked when I tell them I like Chatham and that I prefer it to the hectic, strung-out streets of Toronto where I resided for 10 years.
But where I came from is not the issue. Many people understand the need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city – but why move to Chatham? As a traveling artist, I’ve seen just about every major city in North America. I’ve experienced the highlights (and lowlights) of our fair country, as well as that of our neighbours to the south. I have to say, I’m happy with my decision to settle down here in Chatham.
Since moving to Chatham, I’ve become over-scheduled with opportunities, recreational activities and municipal goings-on.
All that being said, I’d like to take a second to give you this outsider’s view on Chatham. Here’s my Top 10 list of things to get you off the couch and ramp up the quality of your life:
Retrofest – Perhaps it’s over-publicized as Chatham’s redeeming quality, but that’s only because of how amazing it really is. To the outsider, it’s an amazing opportunity to get out in the community and see some automotive history.
Dresden tractor pulls – Yee haw! Pull up your Levis and flannel shirts and get ready to get down and dirty! In what other city can you start your night off with a classy dinner, then end up screaming at goliath, diesel-burning, mud-throwing monsters? Put aside your environmentalism for a night, grab a Budweiser and get in touch with your country roots.
Ribfest – Who thought this up? Seriously! It astounds me that there’s a festival in our city based on saucy meats, complete with beer tent and classic rock on the bandstand. I never knew it, but Ribfest is the combination of all my favorite things.
Sam’s Percolator – Sam’s Percolator is the new place to bring your first date. With a clean, retro-chic interior, full barista and coffee bar, it’s sure to impress your soon-to-be life partner. Not only are they the newest place on the coffee scene, but they’ve even stepped up their game with local art, live music and most importantly, they just got their liquor license!
Business After Hours – Whether you’re looking for a new position, a new opportunity or a business connection, Business After Hours is a great way to socialize with your peers in Chatham. Local businesses host fancy events with drinks and free food. We all know Chatham has a tough job market. So take your career into your own hands and make some connections.
Live MMA – That’s right, Chatham is now home to its own mixed martial arts. You’ve watched UFC at Boston Pizza, but now Maple City Cagefighting brings the action to your front door. Bringing the top talent from Southwestern Ontario, MCC puts on one hell of a show and is guaranteed to get your adrenalin pumping!
Art crawls – What better way to experience the city than drinks on the town, art and interesting people? Travel through local galleries, admiring art from both Chatham and abroad, and visit the local watering holes – get the chance to meet and talk to the artists themselves.
The Capitol Theatre – I know, I know … We’ve all heard it: “I’ve paid enough for that theatre already!” But don’t you think if you’ve paid for something you should use it? From comedians the calibre of Rick Mercer to Russian Ballet, this place just doesn’t quit. And I don’t know if you’ve heard about this or not, but every Wednesday night they have $5 Movies!
Rugby – Did you know that we have our own rugby team? The Kent Havoc Rugby Football Club is looking to make a name for itself. With a men’s, women’s and women’s junior league, there’s plenty of action to be had, whether you’re looking for a game to watch, or even join in on if you’re brave enough.
Erieau Yacht Club – Being from the East Coast, I have sea salt in my veins. But with no ocean around, Lake Erie does just fine in a pinch. Whether you’re a novice sailor or a salty sea dog, this place will have you tacking and jibing in no time.
Take it from me, a well-traveled outsider who chose your little city among many. Chatham has a strong and beating heart, but it’s up to you to tap the vein. I’m calling you out! Get up and get involved, because you don’t have any more reasons to be bored.
And if anybody ever tells you that Chatham sucks, you can look them in the eye and tell them with a deeply consoling tone, “No it doesn’t; it’s just you.”