The Star-Herald

Growing culture in The County

Culture can be an interesting exercise. Every area has its own ideas of what is valuable to the community. There is always someone who can tell a story who has the audience rolling on the floor, holding their stomachs from the sheer joy of laughing till the tears come out. 

As simple as this idea is, it is one that rules so many other events. An event may cover music, theatre, painting, sculpture or even prune juice. Cultural events are important to the identity of a community and become the attraction that brings in the new.

Every media outlet in The County endeavors to put cultural events front and center of efforts to entertain, educate and honor the finer things that culture brings. So what is culture in the County?

Local television airs a promotional spot touting “Cultural Calendar.” Its purpose is to advise viewers that the station will put an announcement on the air for upcoming events. As a public service, these announcements are free. To illustrate to the local public, there are four pieces of video showing artistic activities that fall within a cultural idea. Painting, dancing, music, and theatre moments are presented, four clips form part of the visual diarrhea in a daily commercial broadcast. They look pretty and meet the definition. Stick your nose in the air and put on the airs of a sophisticate. The County is too impoverished to have culture. We are nothing but ignorant dirt farmers with a host of bad habits.

Aroostook County has cultural events. It has a long history of cultural events and it is a rich, verdant field of green when it comes to honoring culture. Yet, the wise people at the television station resort to cheap tropes of what culture should be. There are no pictures of local theatre productions in this spot. There are no pictures of local song and dance efforts, though it is now a hallmark to have WAGM personnel and the United Way sponsor a contest for cultural representatives.

Aroostook County has no culture, according to that promotional spot. Instead we see fancy rich folk from some tony area showing us dirt farmers that we have nothing. If it is a locally produced spot, it should showcase local cultural talent. In the very same commercial break, viewers see a comical commercial for a cultural talent show which showcases culture in The County. Is it too much to ask that the very broadcaster who helps with this event put some thought into promoting the culture that it ignores?

He was Mr. Aroostook County. Those who knew him remember a proud champion of all things Aroostook. From farming to fashion and on to fusion, Phil Turner pushed the idea of Aroostook County being the best place on earth to grow up.

It did not matter to him what your passion was. If you were in The County, he was glad to have you and he would work night and day to get recognition for the effort.

A passionate defender of all things Aroostook with a bucket of enthusiasm that was never empty, Mr. Turner championed all sorts of County things. He was County Cool when it was not popular, known for his booming laugh, a willingness to play the clown, and a fierce fighter in trying to get a bit of the future to grow in the rocky soil known to us all. Scientist, writer, politician, and simple farmer, he challenged us all to think and know that we are growing in the finest place possible.  

Mr. Turner, we owe you a deep debt of gratitude for growing Aroostook Pride.

Orpheus Allison is a photojournalist living in The County who graduated from UMPI and earned a master of liberal arts degree from the University of North Carolina. He began his journalism career at WAGM television later working in many different areas of the US. After 20 years of television he changed careers and taught in China and Korea.

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