“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy local, and that’s kind of the same thing” – or so says several internet memes.

Wednesday afternoon, several of us gathered at a local business to proclaim the next few days the Tahlequah Weekend of Local. Supporting small business is the focus of the upcoming Weekend of Local celebration in several communities across Oklahoma.

I know. During this past year of COVID, our community worked hard to support our local businesses. It was heart-warming to witness such strong efforts to try to keep business doors open. We lost some, but most are still with us. As is so often the case, in Tahlequah, our community supports each other.

The fight isn’t over. With the economy reopening, our local money is walking once again to Tulsa, Fayetteville, Branson and Dallas. Our local businesses can’t make it on tourist traffic only. They still need the support of the community to recover and grow.

So what happens when you shop locally? You keep more money in the local economy. You celebrate the uniqueness of Tahlequah. You support local jobs. You help the environment. You encourage building community. You invest in entrepreneurship. You help make Tahlequah a destination. Small local shops and restaurants are what make us unique.

The Weekend of Local encourages people to visit their local stores and eat in local restaurants during July 23-25. I’d like to encourage you to consider taking the campaign a step further. Is it possible you could commit to a weekend of local support every month? You pick the dates, but try during that time to be more mindful of how your support impacts our community?

2020 was a tough year for businesses. It was tough for all of us, truth be known. If you were a small business owner, though, you had to get creative to figure out a way to continue to serve your customers through shut down, social distancing, employee shortages, and supply chain difficulties. Business owners and customers alike were stressed, and sometimes that bubbled over into behavior that might be regretted.

While the virus is still around in 2021, we have the opportunity to make this a year of recovery, a year to rebuild relationships, to start new endeavors, to reboot life. If 2020 was the Great Shutdown, 2021 is revving the engines and exploring new roads.

Our future, like our past, is dependent upon helping each other. This is the Tahlequah wheelhouse. In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” We have thoughtful, committed citizens and small businesses that need support. One weekend just isn’t enough.

Sue Catron, former assistant vice president of Business and Finance at Northeastern State University, is mayor of Tahlequah.

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