From 1,000 Suns to 10 Cement Geese

1,000 Suns

Sunnyvale’s downtown is transformed! When I visited downtown Sunnyvale shortly before we moved, it struck me that all the visions I had for its rebirth are becoming a reality! When I first ran for public office in 2005, my platform was to make downtown Sunnyvale vibrant, attractive and relevant once more. The platform for my campaign in 2016 was the same because the City Council hadn’t gotten much further with anything in those intervening eleven years. When I ran most recently in 2020, everyone was worried about COVID and Black Lives Matter and downtown was once again something people worried about.

The tone and the questions about downtown were very different in 2020 than in earlier election years because in August of 2020, as Vice Mayor, I signed the Downtown Specific Plan and several development agreements that worked together to transform downtown. People know big changes were coming.

Since construction began on the big projects, which are just now finishing up, I had been so busy with moving and working that I hadn’t been deep into the downtown for a while. As I walked to my destination a few weeks ago, I marveled at the transformation to the downtown in just the four years since I stepped down from City Council. I have been tracking the opportunities there, both missed and taken. Things are happening. There are lots of places to go in Sunnyvale’s downtown, now!

I’m not a person who feels pride often, but seeing the people enjoying themselves, soaking up the public art and marveling at all the new buildings gave me a feeling of deep satisfaction. The grand pedestrian walk through from the train station to Francis Street has taken shape. My heart melted when I saw the One Thousand Suns sculpture installed in it’s rightful spot as “gateway” art welcoming people to downtown. It was like seeing a friend in person at last when you had only ever met online. The piece is a shade canopy made of connected cylinders with blue, yellow or no glass. It’s big. You can’t miss it. It makes Sunnyvale distinctive and I helped bring it to reality.

What a legacy! My name will be on every development agreement, every building project in downtown Sunnyvale for the next 30 years or so! I’m so pleased to leave Sunnyvale on a high note knowing I have made a tangible and favorable imprint on the place (along with my Council colleagues, of course). Sunnyvale is such a beautiful city!

How many cities get to reimagine their downtowns? Not many.

Now that I’m a resident of Cullom, IL, we transitioned from a city of 153,000 people to a village of 520. The pace of life delightfully slower. The opportunities to volunteer and contribute are fewer and less varied. The opportunities for public art are scaled back. I’m delighted that Cullom supports public art.

Cullom is home to a cement lawn ornament factory. In the 1990s, it became popular to clothe the geese. There was, for a time, a cottage industry that produced clothing for cement geese. My favorite outfit was one we saw in the local diner – back when Cullom had a diner. That goose was dressed in a black leather biker outfit. Most people who dressed geese went more the “Mother Goose” route, which looked more like Little Boo Peep, maybe, with blue gingham and frills.

By the mid-2010s, the trend changed, in Cullom, anyway, to support painted geese. Our one-time neighbor organized a “find-the-goose” competition in the newly improved downtown landscaping for the village’s bicentennial homecoming event one August. The village had gotten funding to improve the sidewalks downtown, including a place for plants and landscaping. About 10 cement geese of various colors and styles adorn the block-long downtown and fit in nicely next to the flowering shrubs. It helps that the cement lawn ornament factory owner is also the village mayor. The goose outside the bank is painted gold, of course.

The same neighbor who encouraged the painted geese also installed a fairy village outside the Arnold Beckman Memorial Library, also in downtown, which I found charming and whimsical. In recent years, though, this village dynamo, this mover-and-shaker, has slowed down to a broken hip and a stroke or two.

There has also been a changeover of leadership for the Junior Fair. The aforementioned homecoming celebration also includes a craft/flower/art/baking competition for a variety of age categories. There are dozens of categories. With new and younger leadership comes new categories, like a gluten-free baking category and a spun-fiber category. I, myself, want to enter the gluten-free and drawing categories. I also want to meet the competitors for spun fiber because I have two spinning wheels and a bunch of fleece that I’m not entirely sure what I should do with. The baking and quilting competitions would be pretty tough. I may also have a shot with photography, though.

Now that I think about it, I’m very excited to be in a village that still holds to the expectation that everyone has a skill they can showcase. The winter nights are long here, and I love that the expectation is that people hone their craft during the blustery weather and showcase their work during pleasant times.

The entries for the Junior Fair will be displayed in the Cullom Community Hall. A lot of my life’s events have taken place there. The repast dinners for my parents, for my aunt, for my friends. Celebrations liven up the place as well – auctions, 50th anniversary parties, retirement parties, 100th birthday parties. It hasn’t changed much since I was an 8-year-old carrying auction tickets from the auctioneer to the cashier on auction days. On Mondays in the present day, the hall serves as a food pantry, where local families come get food to tide them over. Already, I’ve volunteered to unpack boxes and stock the pantry.

As we settle in, I’ll look for more opportunities to contribute to the civic life of my hometown. With our hopes to renovate a downtown building and reimagine its façade, I anticipate many conversations to come.

2 thoughts on “From 1,000 Suns to 10 Cement Geese”

  1. Gillian Gillett

    There’s a trend here in SF to put the tiny mirror mosaic tiles on things besides disco balls: hanging planters, plastic fruit, etc. May I suggest a “disco” cement duck?

    Write more!

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