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Column: Impressed by what the local communities have to offer

When somebody says that a place has a "nice" community, or a "close" community, what does that really mean?

Granted, it certainly depends on the context, but, based on my first two months here, I have been (pleasantly) surprised to see that both Perham and New York Mills offer very unique and genuine communities for towns of their size.

There's a lot about living and working in a small town, I think, that people can't understand unless they actually experience it.

It's easy for people who live in bigger cities to say, "Those small towns are boring," or, "Nothing happens there" (at least, that was my impression before moving here!). But unless those people actually visit here or take part in the community, I think they miss the point of a place like Perham or New York Mills.

In the last week, I had the good fortune to attend an open house at Landmark Liquors in Perham, and the kindergarten through second grade Christmas concert at the NY Mills school, and both events said a lot about what these towns and communities have to offer.

First, the Landmark Liquors open house was marked not only by a surprisingly large selection of beer, wine and other drinks to try, but also had a huge turnout almost immediately from opening at 4 p.m. (and this is not to mention the open house at next-door Dean's Country Market, which had an even longer line that I unfortunately didn't have time to wait in).

When I told friends and family about the open house, and of the wide variety of samples to taste, the response I got was, "Wow, that's surprising that Perham would have something like that."

Then, on Monday night I attended the Christmas concert in NY Mills, and was surprised to see that there was hardly an open seat in the entire auditorium. The entire community, it seemed, had turned out to see the kindergarteners, first graders and second graders sing.

Both of these events reflected an involvement of what are two very close-knit communities.

This closeness is especially important during Christmastime, when many among us are hurting from the absence of loved ones, or suffering through unemployment, or any number of painful things that are only made worse during the holiday season.

So, when I see members of the community supporting each other over the next few weeks, maybe I should really stop being surprised.