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More stories from Our Towns:
Bush Pilot for a Day (Nome, Alaska)
Not Another Ghost Town (Alliance, Nebraska)
Al Vento's Dairy and Pizza (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
Shrimp and Petroleum Festival (Morgan City, Louisiana)
Volunteer: Be a Firefighter! (Westminster, Maryland)


Bush Pilot for a Day (Nome, Alaska)

Will consults the flight safety card as bush pilot Kevin checks the controls.

Livelyhood host Will Durst does the work on the edge of the world as a bush pilot for the day. Durst travels to Nome, on the Alaskan perimeter, where he learns the ropes from one of the region's most relied upon professionals, Kevin Fagerstrom, a bush pilot for Cape Smythe Air Service.

Located in northwest Alaska on the shores of the Bering Sea, Nome is perhaps the best known city of its size in the world. It has a rich and colorful history that can best be described in one word.....GOLD! The precious metal was first discovered in the Nome area in 1898 and a historic gold rush of epic proportions soon followed. At the time, Nome was Alaska's largest city boasting 30,000 residents. Today, Nome's claims a modest population of just 4,000, 50 percent of which are Native Eskimo.

Alaska's harsh terrain calls for such flying adventurers for the delivery of any supply, from mail to medicine, groceries to birthday cakes. And delivery of such goods to isolated communities, where there are no roads and highways, pose some of the most dangerous flying conditions in the country. Will takes Fagerstrom's best advice, "Any flight you can talk about in the past tense is a good flight!"


Not Another Ghost Town (Alliance, Nebraska)

This small Western Nebraskan farming town is a community of participants, not spectators. Just ten years ago, Alliance faced an uncertain future. Agriculture was suffering, and the town's major employer, the railroad company, was downsizing. It appeared Alliance, like so many other soon-to-be rural ghost towns, might be stranded with a behind-the-times economy. But Alliance's ranchers, farmers, railroad workers, other business and civic leaders, came together and found a way to support diversity and growth, attracting new manufacturing, high technology and marketing employment.

"We get 83,300 and some visitors."
-- Paul Phaneuf, President of Friends of Carhenge

It's not all serious business in Alliance, though. This mid-Western town is also home to
Carhenge, a life-size replica of Britain's Stonehenge, and one of the region's biggest tourist attractions. A town rich in civic life and hope, Alliance is surviving because its citizens looked within to find resources and build on important relationships.


Al Vento's Dairy and Pizza (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

Al Vento (standing behind fire hydrant) with his workers. Vento's Dairy and Pizza has been around since the Eisenhower administration.
For 48 years, Al Vento has been serving pizza in Pittsburgh, and his restaurant has become more of a neighborhood institution than a pizzeria. He built his business working 17 hour days, offering pizza and hoagies to customers with a daily rhythm and rap. But feeding the stomachs of repeat customers and friends has been the easy part of his business; running a pizzeria in a once thriving area of Pittsburgh that has gone through decades of urban redevelopment fads has been the hard part. Vento has been forced to move his operation three times in the name of progress for his East Liberty neighborhood. This year, Home Depot has come to town and wants his spot. With a commitment to his community and the undying support of the customers raised on Vento food, Vento struck a deal to rebuild in a corner of Home Depot's parking lot.


Shrimp and Petroleum Festival (Morgan City, Louisiana)

Festival preparations at Morgan City pier.

Host Will Durst joins Emile Babin, the city's Chamber of Commerce Director, at the annual Shrimp and Petroleum Festival, learning the business of promoting a community with an identity grounded in gumbo and gunk. The festival celebrates the city's oldest and most distinct industries, shrimping and petroleum exploration, and is a 60-year tradition of music, food, and the Blessing of the Fleets, where the King and Queen of oil and shrimping Riggs touch and toast. It is a gathering place to remember a rich regional history, and perhaps the most valuable lesson of Morgan City's past -- a diverse economy. Because the city previously relied heavily on petroleum employment, in the mid-1980s when the oil industry bottomed-out, Morgan City "suffered because we had all our eggs in one basket," says Babin. Today, Morgan City is investing in bringing shrimping back and developing tourism.

Volunteer Firefighters (Westminster, Maryland)

Will joins Westminster's volunteers firefighters for a good-bye tribute to the old building.

In small towns across the country, volunteer fire fighters are the first line of defense for all types of emergencies. In Westminster, Maryland, over 100 members of the community, from child care workers, electricians and computer programmers, take time out of their busy working lives to be volunteer fire fighters. For the last century of this 160-year tradition in Westminster, the volunteer fire fighter ranks have been housed in a small two-bay, brick building on main street. Host Will Durst joins Westminster's faithful for a good-bye tribute to the building and for the commissioning of a new state-of-the-art 14 bay, technologically-advanced fire station -- a station the town built by raising $1.5 million from bake sales, pancake feeds, bingo games, and dances.

 

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