Editor’s note: The following is the prepared text of remarks made by Kevin Drabinski on behalf of Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian at the annual Cambria Chamber of Commerce Installation Banquet on Jan. 14 at San Simeon Beach Bar & Grill on the occasion of the naming of Taylor Hilden as Cambria Citizen of the Year for 2013. Drabinski’s talk received an overwhelming response from the audience and we reprint it here at the request of several audience members.
It is an honor to present a certificate of recognition from the state legislature to Taylor Hilden on being named Cambria’s Citizen of the Year. It is an honor from a beautiful community to a beautiful citizen.
I’ve lived in this county for some 26 years — been on all the main roads — and half the back roads. Just to demonstrate my grasp of the obvious I’ll tell you all, “There’s no place like Cambria.”
Other communities may have a Main Street or designate themselves a village — but off of their Main Street run 4th, 5th, or 6th street. No such lack of imagination in Cambria however, no grid of ordered streets, no ma’am.
To venture off of the main drag in Cambria is to leave the familiarity of the flats and enter into a world of curves and hills and a forest of trees. You can’t get that elsewhere. There’s no place like Cambria.
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In some ways Cambria’s east and west villages are a destination, but for me the community brings its full flavor to bear on the journey side of things. I count as a blessing all the times I’ve been lost in these hills, when trying to find a friend’s home and having missed a landmark, or have come around a curve and find myself again at Cambria Pines Lodge, with no way to ever repeat how I got there. In very short order I can get turned around, unable to say for sure which side of Highway 1 I’m on.
As a rule I track well and don’t get lost easily. But Cambria has always held this delightfully distracting spell on me. Even if I were to take up residence here tomorrow, I feel I would never lose that satisfying loss of orientation that leaves the journey open to surprise and adventure.
Only two places I’ve ever been to have made me feel the same. In Venice, Italy, after covering 50 meters down a narrow zig-zag of a road off the plaza, the two-story buildings and maze-like streets rob you of a way to track easily where you have been. And for me it certainly adds to a sense of excitement.
San Francisco has an effect on me like this as well — I’ve been there a hundred times, but the best times are when I’ve been turned around and discovered a neighborhood that’s new and unexpected.
Like Venice and San Francisco, Cambria is renowned as an arts and cultural capital and may be rightly considered the arts and cultural center of the Central Coast. I don’t have to guess where local artists get their inspiration — you can still listen in the quiet here to the word of the muse. It’s a voice blended with the wind through the pines, or perhaps the crashing waves of a rough and rugged coastline.
And this community historically challenges itself to stay on the cutting edge of inspiration with a full schedule of annual events that draw folks in from near and far.
The scarecrow festival is answer to the question: How can we remind folks to come and visit us in the heart of the harvest season? And this query demands a creative answer because it’s not as if the evergreen trees are going to change colors on cue – and so the genius of the scarecrow festival emerged thanks to our Citizen of the Year, Taylor Hilden.
When my friends and family trek to Cambria to see another incarnation of the scarecrows, I am the designated driver — not because we’ve been drinking, but because the deliberate pace in which one views the scarecrows from a car requires one person — sometimes the driver — to keep focused on the road straight ahead. Few other driving events bring out the defensive driver in me like Cambria in scarecrow season.
There’s some creative driving going on out there. I may suggest, if you have not already done so, to seek out sponsorship opportunities from your local vehicle collision insurance brokers. From the near misses I’ve seen, I can only imagine more than a few of them by now have paid off that condo in Mazatlán.
There’s no place like Cambria — and Taylor Hilden’s vision and creativity permit us to reaffirm that truth all over again.
The scarecrow festival gives license to the imagination of folks who live and work in the community and, imbued with the immutable sense of wonder that Cambria seems to draw out of the faithful, Cambria has created a new season of arts and culture it can call its very own, a season which exclaims once again, “there’s no place like Cambria.”
For once again helping make Cambria a place like no other, we are honored to recognize Taylor Hilden as Cambria Citizen of the Year.