On February 1st, Jacobsen Landscape in New Jersey helped to host an incredibly successful Come Alive Outside Event with other partners in their community. Over 1,500 people came out to enjoy all of the festivities and embrace the joys of being outside in the winter at the “Fire and Ice Festival”! The event was hosted on and around the Graydon Pool Lake in Ridgewood, New Jersey, which thanks to this exceptionally cold winter that we are all enjoying, was frozen solid enough for everyone to get out on to play and ice skate. Around the lake were over a dozen bonfires for keeping everyone warm well into the evening and of course for roasting marshmallows on! The event also featured snowshoeing, hiking, ice sculptures, music, and a variety of food and baked goods for everyone to enjoy.
I spoke recently with Glenn Jacobsen, President of Jacobsen Landscape and President of PLANET, to get the details on how they were able to pull off such an awesome event. Before we get into the story behind the event, it really is worth taking a few minutes to watch this video documenting the event. There are some things for which words just can’t do it justice. This is definitely the case when it comes to thousands of smiling faces celebrating a beautiful day outside as a community!
– Andy Paluch
Reaping What You Sow
Back in December of 2012, Glenn Jacobsen was inspired by the mission of encouraging people to unplug from their gadgets and gizmos and get back outside. He decided that he and his team would host three events in the coming year, one in the summer, fall and winter. The first thing that Glenn did was what every single person who has been successful taking action around Come Alive Outside has done. He started talking about it.
There is something very immediate and inspiring about the idea of getting people off the couch and back outside; people connect with it right away. Glenn said that during the “Fire and Ice Festival” he had a lot of conversations with people about how this was like how things used to be in the old days. For the generations that grew up playing outside and see children nowadays growing up inside with their heads in their video games, there is a very real sense that something has been lost. What Glenn and many others have found is that when you help people put their finger on the problem and start talking about how “we” can do something about it, there is no shortage of energy and ideas to get the ball rolling.
One of the first people that Glenn talked to was a client of theirs who is also a city council woman. She was immediately excited about the idea of helping their community Come Alive Outside and arranged a time for her and Glenn to meet with the mayor. When the mayor heard about it, he got excited and helped plug the mission in with the Parks and Recreation Department. That was the beginning of a great partnership between Jacobsen Landscape and Parks and Rec that was not only the driving force behind the “Fire and Ice Festival” but two other Come Alive Outside events that were held in 2013.
The first of those events was a very successful Rubber Duck Derby this past summer that was attended by well over 500 members of the community. Glenn says that one of the really valuable things about working with Parks and Rec is that they already have a well-established network in the community so they serve as the promotional arm in getting the word out about events. In the fall, Jacobsen Landscape collaborated again with the Parks and Rec Department to host a bike tour of local parks for children and families. The word continued to spread through these two events in the community, so when it came time to plan for the “Fire and Ice Festival” there were even more partners who came to the table to be part of the planning and execution of the event.
To the outside observer, it might seem like events like this “just come together.” In a sense they do, but it is the result of constantly sowing seeds through conversations over time. If there is something that you are really passionate about, whether it is Come Alive Outside or another cause or goal, there is no substitute for just getting out there and taking action. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to try to do it all yourself and having a conversation where you transfer your enthusiasm to another person is a very powerful way to take action.
A network of people who are working together can accomplish more than a single person ever could. Never underestimate the value of an inspiring conversation! Starting to take action by engaging in conversation with potential partners is not only a great way to get more support but also very valuable in exploring creative solutions before selecting which course of action you will take.
We live in very interesting times. We have all the information in the world right at the tips of our fingers all the time. We can talk to someone on the other side of the world as easily as we can talk to someone on the other side of town. We can keep in touch with old friends and new acquaintances through our ever-growing social networks. And yet, a lot of people nowadays are longing for a real sense of community. Outside is where community happens!
Events like those that Jacobsen and his team have initiated in their community are the basis for making the memories that allow kids to grow up feeling like they are part of something and like they have their roots in the place that means something to them. As Councilwoman Gwen Hauck said when speaking to everyone at the festival, “Remember that you live in a town where we are a community of people who care about each other.” What an extremely important thing that is! We talk a lot about the physical health issues that come from children spending most of their time indoors, but fostering a sense of community may be even more important to raising a generation of healthy, well-rounded young people. If people continue to spend more and more time indoors and interacting with the world through their digital devices, what does that do to our communities? How does that affect the way that young people build relationships and interact with one another as well as with older generations?
The relationships that are built in organizing events like these are extremely valuable as well. I asked Jacobsen what the payoff is for getting himself and his company involved in the community. His immediate response was that it just makes you feel good about what you do. Especially for those people involved in organizing and executing these community events, there is something very satisfying and empowering in knowing that you did what you could to make your community and the people in it a little bit healthier and happier. We’ve seen that for those who are active in their community, it becomes contagious. There are certainly benefits for a company in being involved in events like this; getting exposure in the community and networking with potential clients, but that’s not what gets people hooked. The business owners that we know who are very active in their communities do it for the feeling that comes from being involved. It feels good to do the right thing!
As Glenn Jacobsen and the Jacobsen Landscape look to 2014 and what will happen in the community to help people spend more active time outdoors, there are a few interesting differences compared to this time last year. Because of the action that they’ve taken, there are now a lot of other people in the community who are excited about Come Alive Outside and wondering what happens next. Glenn sees that he will be able to step back a little bit this year and play a slightly less involved role in the planning and execution of the events in 2014, largely thanks to the teams and committees of community members that were formed for each event. For those who have seen the great TED Talk, “How to Start a Movement,” this may ring familiar to one of the key lessons in that talk. One of the most critical moments in the process of starting a movement is embracing and empowering the first followers in a way that helps them to keep things moving and get others involved. This is exactly what Glenn and his team have been able to do!
What if we could help more people in more communities enjoy the feeling of being active? If you spend your evenings on the coach watching the news, it doesn’t take long to get convinced that the world is full of problems. Luckily, communities are built to solve problems. From safety and security to health care and education, community has been the answer to most human problems for thousands of years.
If you sit inside all day watching the problems of the world play out on a screen, it’s very easy to think that we don’t have any power to fix things. Thanks to the example of great people and companies like Jacobsen’s, we can see the impact that a small group of people can have when they are inspired and working together to do something good right where they live. It all starts with opening the door and getting out there connecting with other people who want to make the world a better place.