VOICES OF HUNTSVILLE | GERRIT BURKE'S LOVE LETTER TO OUR CITY FROM ABOVE
Voices of Huntsville is awarded once a month to a local resident of Huntsville, Madison County, Madison City, Decatur, and surrounding areas to share their personal perspective of our community. Our Voice of Huntsville will share their creative passion and unique perspective about what they absolutely love about Huntsville in a format that best speaks to their own creativity, vlog, blog, photo essay. Interested in becoming a TSG Huntsville Voice of Huntsville? Apply here!
Gerrit Burke, February 2021, Voices of Huntsville
Love Letter to Our City from Above
When I moved to the Huntsville area on the trailing edge of my dad’s transition to civilian life in January 1996, there were three major events going on that my elementary school-aged brain retained: 1. The Ice Storm – and walking down University Drive with the world draped in white, 2. the imminent Atlanta Olympics – and getting to see Izzy as the torch passed through Huntsville, and 3. the Madison Elementary School production of “The Wizard of Oz” – and perfecting the delivery of my two lines as the titular role in what turned out to be a very brief acting career. At that time, the population of the Huntsville metro area was nearly half what it is now, traffic was lighter, Dan Satterfield’s weather forecasts ruled the airwaves, and people were wondering how long this fad called the internet would last.
As a military kid, I was used to moving, as was my father before that, and his father before that. But as I got involved in school, sports, church, and other activities, Huntsville started to feel like home in a new way – a more settled way. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses growing up here, though: Big Spring Jam, Stars and Channel Cats games, Southern Adventures, and Panoply (though it was probably raining that weekend) were some of the only things to do as a teenager, it felt at the time. Honestly, I never saw myself staying as an adult, but it took leaving to go to school and start my career to make me realize something:
I love this city.
At its heart, Huntsville is a Renaissance City—a growing town that thrives at the intersection of Bible belt origins, a science and engineering-driven economy, and a burgeoning artistic groove. If you think about it, you might seriously not have enough fingers to count the people you know who engineer next-generation technology for NASA or the military Monday through Friday, work creative gigs or hobbies on evenings and Saturdays, and then teach or attend services on Sunday. We are a town that converted a factory that made boots for Vietnam-era troops into an art hub, where senior business leaders with technical degrees tutor kids in STEM at Lincoln Village because that’s really the stuff they like anyway, and where you could conceivably run into a General with more stars than shoulders while picking up your pre-snowfall milk and bread.
Not long ago, Huntsville ranked 7th on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Places to Live in the United States. We’ve made a habit of appearing on notable lists and receiving state and national recognition, too. We exceed expectations, attract new talent, and grow not because of some arbitrary goal or desire to appear on a list, but because expanding horizons and shattering barriers is part of our ethos. And yet, to many of us, such accolades are less important than the fact that we’re soon going to get a Trader Joe’s and a Cheesecake Factory. If we ever add an Ikea, nothing will stop us.
We don’t wait around for others to invest in our community though. We invest in ourselves, with a fantastic Community Foundation that itself has raised more than $30 million to boost local community organizations, with small business startups built around big ideas, and with schools that regularly achieve national recognition.
We have a Land Trust that works tirelessly to preserve some of the amazing natural beauty within and around our city, and avid groups of outdoor-types that run, bike, hike, and explore the more than 73 miles of trails within a short drive of downtown.
We have a rocket in our skyline. Actually, we have two. And if that’s not enough for you, we have very driveable access to some sights people travel from across the world to see, like Lookout Mountain (which has awesome Hang Gliding and Paragliding), Bankhead National Forest (which houses many of the 44 named waterfalls in a ~2hr drive from Huntsville), and Harmony Park Safari (which, ok, is maybe not world-renowned but is definitely an area must-visit).
I love this city, and I’m not alone.
Thanks to my day job, I get to spend a lot of time with business-people that are deliberately and strategically trying to grow their footprint here. This complements my off-hours gig as a photographer and videographer, where I get to share the stories and images of Huntsville’s small business owners, organizations, and beautiful places with other Huntsvillians and the world through social media. But when it comes to growth, my favorite gig is my 24/7 one: Dad. Exploring this city with my daughter is something I always look forward to, discovering the surrounding natural beauty together, and showing her first-hand how much our community has to offer her.
I love this city, and I hope she’ll fall in love with it, too.
Gerrit is a Huntsville husband, dad, and Business Developer that runs Sparrow Digital Media in his borderline imaginary free time. A self-professed aviation nerd, he satisfies his childhood obsession with flying things as an FAA certified commercial drone pilot and shares his photography on Instagram as @sparrowdronehsv. He loves watching movies with sword fights, reading fiction and non-fiction books about space, and pretending he drinks less coffee than he actually does.
Thank you so much Gerrit for sharing your voice and vision of Huntsville from above with us. We hope that you love Huntsville as much as Gerrit does!
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