Building Amazing Cities
By JIM HUNT
author, speaker, consultant

We sometimes forget how much talent resides in our state and this past week, my wife and I got to see an amazing performance of Guys and Dolls at the Joan Edwards Performing Arts Center on the Marshall University campus in Huntington.

The musical is based on the stories of Damon Runyon and explores the lives of gangsters and gamblers in the 1920’s and 30’s. It debuted on Broadway in 1950 and has been revived over the years, both on Broadway and throughout the world. The cast was outstanding and featured a Robert C. Byrd High School graduate and Marshall University sophomore, Abby Yazvac, in the lead role of Sarah Brown. Ms. Yazvac stole the show with her portrayal of the pious and beautiful Sargent Sarah Brown of the Save-a-Soul Mission.

The musical ran for four nights and a Sunday matinee and drew large crowds for each performance. While the drive from Clarksburg to Huntington is about three hours, the weather was pleasant and the scenery was beautiful. The Joan Edwards Performing Arts Center is the perfect venue for a production such as Guys and Dolls and the facility is easy to find with plenty of parking next door to the center.

It was also great to spend a little time in Huntington, which was just named “America’s Best Community” in a nationwide contest sponsored by Frontier Communications.  The city also received $3 million dollars to implement a revitalization program targeting some old industrial property to assist in expanding the Marshall University campus.  Huntington competed against cities from throughout the country and created a plan to revitalize the community while engaging citizens to work jointly with the city. In addition to the prize money, the city will receive a large mural by a local artist to depict the vibrancy and resiliency of the community.

Huntington is a good example of a city that is overcoming some great challenges to become an Amazing city. The Pullman Square project has breathed new life into the downtown and brought a wide variety of entertainment venues, shops and restaurants. The downtown is attracting a steady stream of visitors and new businesses are cropping up on every corner.

My good friend Mayor Steve Williams has led a team of city officials and community leaders to combat the serious opioid epidemic and put together the components to develop into a thriving economy and a great quality of life.

Too many people give up on a community without looking for the bright spots and Huntington is proving that if you head in a positive direction, good things can happen. Supporting local arts is also a great strategy for revitalization. Activities such as the Marshall University arts program can bring people into the community and support local shops and restaurants while having a great time.

If you are looking for some Amazing entertainment, it is not always necessary to travel to New York City or Pittsburgh.  Take some time and explore the amazing talent within our state and the amazing cities that are working to create a safe and enjoyable entertainment experience.