After attending several sessions of a fast-paced, fun open mic for creative ideas called Ignite Staunton recently, I started wondering how the demographic of this small town nestled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia appears to have shifted from more traditional over 35 business types to a decidedly “hip” group of entrepreneurs interested in green, creative and grassroots business ideas. Where did these folks come from and what does it mean for our local economy? Why here?
Then I ran across this article on NPR “The Hipsterfication of America” and it totally made sense. “Hipsters, after all, know how to adapt: how to make the cheap chic, the disheveled dishy, the peripheral preferable. A shaky, shabby economy is the perfect breeding ground for hipsters….Hipsterishness is a state of mind.”
So a room full of young ideas from every possible age group…presenters ranged from 10 years old to the AARP eligible…convinces me that the hipster state of mind has totally arrived in this tiny community. Why? It used to be that odd, creative minds fled small town America’s scrutiny for the anonymity and comraderie of other weirdos in the big city. What’s different here?
My theory is that despite its reputation for being a little pocket of Southern conservatism, Staunton has always embraced creativity and the arts. It’s not just a charming historic town. It is a place willing to take creative risks, to accept quirkiness. And despite the usual obstacles and threads of old power getting in the way at times, there’s a local state of mind that embraces innovation as the key to surviving and thriving. And the hipsters feel it.
The hipsters have arrived, and they are heating things up. Keep your eye on Staunton, it’s slowly lighting up the Valley.