The forced two-year hiatus of Toledo's annual gathering known simply as the “Big Meeting” did nothing to reduce residents’ enthusiasm for their community.
If anything, challenges posed by the pandemic, supply chain issues and severe weather in the last two years encouraged Toledo’s movers and shakers to embrace their creativity.
Roughly 75 people gathered in the auditorium of the newly finished Toledo High School for the return of the Big Toledo Community Meeting to share their creative new ideas for the town and update their neighbors on ongoing projects and upcoming events.
“Us people have new, quirky things … and by golly show up to support it. That’s what is great about Toledo,” Toledo Mayor Steve Dobosh said on Thursday.
The New Year’s Eve Giant Cheese Ball Drop, started by the Toledo Lions Club in 2018, is one example of a quirky idea that became a tradition due to the community’s support.
The first cheese drop initially had only 10 to 15 people show up, but a quarter to midnight, “it looked like a zombie attack was coming down the streets because we had them 50 deep that showed up. We had over 100 people that night,” Dobosh said.
But the Lions Club hasn't dropped the cheese for two years now: first it was canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19 concerns, then it was canceled again in 2021 because it was 19 degrees and snowing the day of the event.
But organizers still have $50 worth of cheese for the cheese ball that was supposed to drop this last winter.
“We gotta get rid of that cheese so we're gonna have the cheese ball drop not on New Year's Eve, but Fourth of July eve. That is July 3 at midnight,” Mike Morgan said.
The ball drop at the Toledo boat launch will be accompanied by $100 worth of fireworks donated by the Toledo Lions Club, which will be selling additional fireworks at the event.
“The weather will obviously be much better,” Morgan said.
While the town has been without a winter cheese ball drop, residents had an idea this last year to bring more people into town over the holidays: a Santa Quad Parade.
“Last year we had about nine or 10 quads that were really decked out and cold as all get out, and these people drove the streets with their lights and decorations all over the quads to really make it (special),” Dobosh said.
The quads met at the town’s Christmas tree lighting and attempted to sing, “but nobody can carry a note too well in our city so we didn’t sing too much,” he said.
The Santa Quad Parade will make its return in 2022, along with beloved community events such as Vision:TOLEDO’s wine and cheese tasting, the bluegrass festival, ARTrails and Walk in the Park.
Among the ongoing projects in the community that were shared on Thursday were Common Ground Toledo’s efforts to repair and tend to garden beds around town, the Toledo Community Foundation’s work supporting children in the community and the Toledo airport’s mission to get a courtesy car for pilots and other airport visitors to use.
The Big Toledo Community Meeting is held by Vision:TOLEDO, a community organization formed in 2011 after a fire gutted a historic building in the town’s core that was home to a small museum. The organization held the first Big Toledo Community Meeting that same year to brainstorm ways to revitalize the town.
Organizations such as the Toledo Community Library, the Toledo Senior Center and the Toledo Historical Society shared their yearly updates on Thursday, and some organizations, such as the newly formed South Lewis County Chamber of Commerce and the Toledo Neighbors Program, took the opportunity to introduce themselves.
The Neighbors Program was recently developed by Amber Buck as a way to address food and resource insecurity by helping neighbors coordinate their resources.
“It's not government funded, so there's no requirements. You want to bring food, you bring food. You want to pick up food, you pick up food … if you pick it up for yourself or for neighbors, if you have a neighbor in need and need us to deliver on their behalf, we can make that happen as well,” Buck said.
One takeaway Toledo community members wanted attendees to have from Thursday’s meeting is that it’s not the same few people doing all of the community work in Toledo.
“It’s not the same 10 people. It’s some terrific people. And they're all in this room,” Buck said.
“If you come up with something quirky again, because you’ve got ideas, just run it by us. If we can pull it off, we'll try to pull it off,” Dobosh said.