2013-09-05 / Opinion


September Swan Song

With September upon us, many are finding reasons to start anew. For island school children and their parents, the past few weeks have brought on a new school year.

For business owners, September represents the start of the city’s shoulder season – where beachgoers are replaced by cruise ship passengers and fair weather day-trippers. At City Hall, September begins the autumn construction season, as work crews seek to get as much as possible completed on our roads, sidewalks, and grounds before the winter settles in.

For locals, September might just be the year’s best month. For at least its first two weeks, September’s air is still crisp, the sun is still strong, and the water can be at its warmest.

And while our streets might not be as busy as July or August, business can be at its best.

In the run-up to the Labor Day weekend, local tourism officials cast a relatively rosy picture of the city’s summer season.

According to data compiled by Discover Newport, after a relatively weak June, Newport and Bristol counties rebounded midway through the summer and the outlook for the remaining months of the year appears strong.

In fact, according to Discover Newport’s CEO, Evan Smith, “Lodging performance reports from Smith Travel Research show that revenue for this past July was 5 percent higher compared to July 2012” and August numbers have been tracking up single digits as well.

According to Smith, September has historically been Newport’s most visited month, with cruise ships, motor coaches and corporate conferences filling the voids left by summer residents and vacationers.

And while the number of cruise ships due into port this year is expected to be lower than in previous seasons, Newport continues to thrive through its robust mix of cultural and scenic attractions which only get better as autumn arrives.

Late last week, while standing in line at the main post office on Thames Street, a woman remarked to her companion that this was only the first or second time she had been downtown since Memorial Day.

“I simply don’t venture down here during the summer,” she said. “Just too crazy.”

Indeed, there are times during the summer when navigating Bellevue and America’s Cup can be cumbersome, if not downright frustrating. And through anecdotal accounts, there appears to be at least some portion of the community that does indeed avoid the din of downtown during the high season.

But in these last fleeting weeks of summer, we’re certain that our downtown merchants and restaurant owners will be more than happy to become reacquainted. So this September, let’s all celebrate the summer that was, and the season that still is, by frequenting our local small businesses. And if you happen to see their ads in these pages, please let them know.

It won’t be long now before the season slows and doors are shuttered for the winter. Buying local and supporting our small businesses is not only a neighborly act, it’s also one that has a real impact on our local economy and culture.

If recent trends are to be believed, we may not be too far away from having a truly year-round economy – one where the “high season” doesn’t simply mean “warm weather.” That is a goal to which we should all strive. And though it might make for a longer line at the post office, it will also make for a more livable community.

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