Giving Thanks for Our Agora

Strolling through Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow or Irvington on any weekend day this fall, it’s easy to see that a communitarian spirit has become the hallmark of our river towns. With a wide variety of gathering places, both formal and informal, we are fortunate to be recreating an ancient tradition, once thought a necessity for a healthy life – the classical Greek “agora”.

In ancient Greek city-states the agora was the central gathering place – the nexus of athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life in the city. Later it evolved into a public space where merchants kept stalls or shops. Communal and commercial interests combined to create a marketplace of goods as well as ideas, an exchange of shared values, and neighborly interaction. That’s exactly what our villages are experiencing in 2015, and in lively measure.

The TaSh, Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow’s revitalized farmers market and the Irvington’s Farmers Market evidence a bustling atmosphere where not only is wholesome food available, much of it locally sourced, but generations of citizens come together to hear music and exchange ideas, pleasantries, and news. Various communitarian groups and committees offer their services, information is disseminated, and cooks educate their public. Both markets serve our communities by bringing residents together in a joyful gathering, connecting folks from all neighborhoods, ethnicities, classes and ages.

This spirit is now widespread in our villages. We have only to consider how Friends of the RiverWalk, The Beautification Foundation, Discovery and Healthy Kids Days, not to mention our libraries, our churches, our synagogue, the Y and the fire stations bring out the best in us. At our Chamber of Commerce, at Rotary, and at various senior centers, we gather socially to converse and enjoy a nourishing camaraderie. In the process, many different groups work to meet the challenges of local professionals as well as those in need. We come together to witness our children perform everything from athletic feats to Shakespeare in the Park, we hear jazz on the Hudson River, and we celebrate our region’s historical heritage. The benefit may never be calculated in dollars, but the social profit we reap is immeasurable.

So, before winter’s chill closes our markets, halts Third Friday and puts an end to the parades, not to mention those delightful river walks and the pleasant bench times in our parks chatting with old friends, let’s all be thankful for our agoras, wherever they are, and celebrate our community – it’s an ancient practice.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at The Hudson Independent.

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