Inspirational Evening Helps Identity Project Polish Redding’s Reputation

A full-fledged amphitheater next to the Sacramento River and repurposing historic signs into public art displays were two of the 10 Redding City Identity Project ideas unveiled Thursday before a jampacked Cascade Theatre audience.

A collaborative effort between the Redding Chamber of Commerce and its Forward Redding Foundation, the Identity Project is an effort to burnish Redding’s image and improve its reputation by identifying and building upon the community’s best attributes.

Thursday’s event, which featured an inspirational keynote address by bestselling author John O’Leary and a surprise appearance by former San Francisco Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt, revealed the first 10 ideas targeted for action by 2020. The ten were selected from more than 750 submitted through www.reddingideas.org.

John O’Leary, right, greets fans after his keynote address.

Also informing the Identity Project are comments from 2,440 residents who responded to a citywide survey. Among the findings from the survey, “disapprove,” “unsafe” and “disappointed” were among the most frequent answers when respondents were asked their impression of present-day Redding. Also interesting: Some 68 percent of respondents said they get all their news about the community from word-of-mouth and Facebook.

While the bulk of the survey highlighted Redding’s affordability, recreational opportunities and family friendly attributes, Identity Project committee member April LaFrance said it was important to also consider the challenges facing the project.

“I’ve never been prouder of Redding,” said Jake Mangas, president and CEO of the Redding chamber and the evening’s emcee. Mangas said that pride was based in part on how the community responded to the Carr Fire and the resurgence in downtown as represented by construction projects totaling in excess of $200 million.

Jake Mangas addresses a capacity crowd at the Cascade Theatre.

In addition to the amphitheater and the historic signs, the 10 ideas included an “umbrella alley” public art installation; a local business “passport” program; a concerted effort to improve Redding’s online reputation; a downtown mural; itineraries by locals on how to schedule an awesome day in Redding; live street music; digital ambassadors; and a city messaging (talking points) campaign.

An additional 10 ideas will be selected later this month. Residents are urged to continue submitting ideas for the next two weeks. Funding, through a host of sponsors, is already in place for the first 10 ideas, LaFrance said.

O’Leary, the keynote speaker, used anecdotes from his own riveting story—as a 9-year-old, he suffered burns over 100 percent of his body in a house fire and was not expected to make it through the night—to encourage audience members to appreciate their own blessings and work to ensure tomorrow is better than today.

“There is a lot right with Redding and we’re going to celebrate it,” O’Leary said.

A native of St. Louis, Mo., O’Leary said his long recovery in a burn center was aided by repeated visits from legendary St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck. Buck, who was dying from lung cancer, gifted O’Leary the crystal baseball he was presented with upon enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The baseball theme continued when Mangas introduced Affeldt, who was a member of the San Francisco Giants when the team won world championships in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Affeldt said the team he joined in 2009 had no identity but by 2010 the band of “misfits” had begun to trust and believe in each other to the point that they established an identity as winners.

Former San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt.

Redding, too, has the resources and residents to become a champion city, Affeldt said. “You guys are awesome. I want to believe in you.” Affeldt said he’s been a frequent visitor to Redding and particularly enjoys fly fishing for rainbow trout on the Sacramento River near the Sundial Bridge.

The 2014 World Series baseball gifted to the city of Redding.

He concluded his remarks by presenting the city with an official World Series baseball signed by the 2014 Giants team members. (Affeldt was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series; the decisive game against Kansas City was notable for the five innings of relief pitching turned in by Madison Bumgarner.)

Jake Mangas with the ball signed by the 2014 World Champion San Francisco Giants.

To submit an idea for the Redding City Identity Project “20 Ideas by 2020” program, visit www.reddingideas.org

Jon Lewis

Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.

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