The spring wildflower season in Mason County is a time of mixed feelings. This is the one other time of the year, other than the fall hunting season, when the area is filled to bursting with visitors. Unlike hunting season, these folks aren't heading out to the cabins and saying away from town, instead, they are walking the square and heading in and out of all the stores.
During Texas Topaz Day, I watched crowds making the rounds, taking photos and spinning around to take it all in. As a rule, almost all of the visitors were friendly, easygoing and seemed excited to be in our little town.
During the last few weeks, as the colors around the county have exploded all over the roadways and the hillsides, the influx of visitors has once again increased. By the time Saturday morning rolls around, it can be difficult to find a spot to park on the square. Groups wander aimlessly around the sidewalks, dogs on leashes, cameras in hand.
Out in front of the News office, people tend to slow up a bit, lean on the rock wall, enjoy the cool shade and take in the expansive view of the square offered from our unique vantage point. They're often very open to visiting and chatting, and they seem to be genuinely excited and into enjoying the small town ambience.
One of the most interesting things I've noticed about our spring visitors over the years is that they aren't just here to shop and take pictures. The visitors that come to Mason during the spring and early summer are here to soak up our lifestyle as much as the shopping and architecture. They are genuinely interested in meeting local residents, in learning about our fascinating history, and in understanding how we make our living.
Go back through the various magazine and newspaper articles about Mason County that have appeared over the years, and you'll notice that one thing is consistent - the writers imbue Mason residents with a sense of adventure, history and perseverance that we proudly claim for ourselves on a daily basis. The writers are presenting an image to their readers of a people that are warm, welcoming and quirky! I think they are smart to focus on these qualities, as I truly believe they are accurate.
The groups that come to Mason to go hunting may socialize with the landowners and the guides; but, they rarely get an opportunity to learn about the rest of the people of Mason County. Our spring visitors do enjoy meeting us, learning about us and interacting with us. And, I think it's something we can use to our advantage.
We have often gotten into the habit of "keeping our distance" from the visitors. We, mistakenly, think that all of them want to do their own thing and that they aren't interested in knowing us. But, they do want to learn more, and they will do so if we give them a chance.
We often worry that the people from the larger urban areas think less of us because of our rural heritage. I've found that most of them envy our lives and wish they could find a way to live where we live, and to enjoy the lives we've constructed. When we open our lives up to them, they do not have criticisms, they have compliments, and they will willingly share them.
2012 has already been a much better year than 2011, and we have the opportunity to make the season just keep improving. By including these visitors and making them feel welcome, they return home with stories of a magical place where they spent a few days. Soon, they return with more friends and other family members, and the process just keeps continuing.
On top of everything else, there's another advantage to having these many visitors to our area - - they are interesting, fun to talk to, and enjoyable to watch. Don't be afraid to take advantage of our tide of tourists as our own form of cheap entertainment!
It’s all just my opinion.