Sunday, Sept. 25, the City of Williamsburg hosted a Future Festival at the Crim Dell Meadow. City officials invited community members to play a series of games that were designed to gather public input, informing City Council and staff while they develop Williamsburg City’s two-year work plan.
The Future Festival is a part of a series of events that the city has been hosting throughout Williamsburg in September to help identify new strategic initiatives that will benefit the area as a whole and contribute to its biennial Goals, Initiatives and Outcomes. The GIO process aims to focus on specific priorities to concentrate attention on certain projects in an effort to produce visible change within the community.
The festival hosted six stations of games that reflected the six goals that were adopted for the 2021-22 GIO: One Williamsburg, Couragely Leading, Innovating a Modern City, Prioritizing Safety and Wellness, Engaging with Our Partners and Connecting with the World.
Williamsburg’s City Manager Andrew O. Trivette was one of the city council staff who attended the event. Trivette stressed the importance of the event as it allows the community to engage with members of the city council.
“I hope that people realize that the city can be fun, and public input doesn’t have to be coming to a public meeting, sitting through two to three hours worth of presentations and then having four or five minutes to give your input on what we said,” Trivette said. “We do a lot less talking here and this is about you absorbing the information that we’ve put together and then telling us what you think about it.”
Trivette emphasized the importance of public input, noting the city is focused on meeting the needs of Williamsburg residents.
“It’s crucial,” Trivette said. “Public policy should be based on what the community wants to be, particularly when we’re talking about strategic planning. With Williamsburg 2040, the whole idea is what does the community need us to be.’”
“public policy should be based on what the community wants to be, particularly when we’re talking about strategic planning. with williamsburg 2040, the whole idea is what does the community need us to be.”
Williamsburg 2040 is the new vision statement that was unveiled by Williamsburg Mayor Douglas Pons back in November of 2020 at the State of City address. The new vision statement highlights that in 20 years the city plans to be: “One Williamsburg that is courageously leading, innovating, a modern city, prioritizing safety and wellness, engaging with our partners, while connecting with the world.”
Pons, a lifelong resident of the Williamsburg community and who has served on city council for the past twelve years, was also at the festival. Pons highlighted the importance of hosting the Future Festival on the College of William and Mary’s campus because the students are valued members of the greater Williamsburg area.
“The students are such an integral part of Williamsburg,” Pons said. “Williamsburg is only nine square miles, just under half of our population is William and Mary students, and so I think it’s important that all of you have a say, particularly here on campus for what the future may look like for Williamsburg.”
“The students are such an integral part of Williamsburg. williamsburg is only nine square miles, just under half our population is william and mary students, and so i think it’s important that all of you have a say, particularly here on campus for what the future may look like for williamsburg.”
Pons also stressed the significance of having residents attend the festival.
“Being able to hear from our residents to hear what they think the future looks like is important so we can draft that document, which is a working document for staff to march forward into the future,” Pons said. “Rather than just have five council members decide what it looks like, it’s important to get everybody involved. These Future Festivals have been pretty successful in terms of bringing in new people.’”
Residents of the surrounding area of Jamestown County also attended the event, such as Meghan Roth Clayton ’08, M.Ed. ’23 and her husband Josh Clayton ’’08. Clayton believed that the Future Festival was an inclusive approach to gathering residents who want to have their voices heard by City Council.
“I’m a pastor in the community and we’ve moved back here in 2017, and we heard a little bit about these events,” Clayton said. “I thought it was really a unique way to get input from people who live, work, play and serve in the Williamsburg area. I liked that it was happening in lots of different locations in Williamsburg, and with our love of the College, we decided to come to the one here.’”
Not only were residents in attendance, but College students as well. Nicolette Glut ’24 stated that she enjoyed playing with the interactive games that the Festival hosted such as the “Totally Tubular” game which emphasizes the one GIO of Courageously Leading. The game was designed for people to highlight certain adjectives that they want Williamsburg to embody such as “bold,” “innovative’ or “award-winning.”’
“I think it’s really cool that they’re taking it from the people where they want things, like taking pictures of them and making notes, and give it to city hall to see how they can improve, but in a way that the residents and the people who actually live here and how it actually affects,” Glut said.
Yuri Adams ’14, economic development director for the City of Williamsburg, was staffing the welcome tent. Adams emphasized that it’s important for the city to host accessible events for the community because it allows residents and students to interact with local government initiatives.
“Instead of making it a boring meeting, we brought the festivals to the neighborhoods,” said Adams. “We built all of these games ourselves, they’re all structured to gain that input from citizens, whether they’re college students or just City of Williamsburg residents, to let us know how we can get towards this Williamsburg that we want to be in 2040.”
City Councilmen Ted Maslin MBA ’80, stated that the Future Festival has been a large success in the area, estimating that over 750 people have attended the event. He highlighted that one of his long-term goals for the community is to bring Williamsburg residents and students together.
“One of the things I want to do is develop an adopt-a-neighborhood program where we can take a neighborhood and see what their needs are,” Maslin said, emphasizing plans to “build cross-functional teams to work with all of the community’s stakeholders to restore harmony in each neighborhood, especially the neighborhoods next to William and Mary, where’s there that tension sometimes between homeowners and student renters. I think we can bring people together.”