Black Belt Treasures holds grand opening

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 3, 2005

CAMDEN-People from all over crowded downtown Camden yesterday to get their first glimpse of the new Black Belt Treasures building, which was full of art from all over the Black Belt.

Before the doors were open several local and state leaders were given the opportunity to praise the hard work that made the building a reality. Alabama State Treasurer Kay Ivey said the fact that everyone was in Camden for the historic event was significant for two reasons.

“The first is that it shows individuals make the difference,” Ivey said. “When individuals have hope and extraordinary ideas and they present them to other individuals you see what can happen.”

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Ivey said the second item of significance was the willingness to share the rewards of a job well done.

“The second significant reality is our leaders in the Black Belt Action Commission are very flexible,” Ivey said. “It is amazing what you can get done when you don’t care who gets the credit. Today is an example of what can happen when there is flexibility.”

Success stories in the Black Belt have often been praised for their ability to stretch their resources to the limit. Alabama State Sen. Hank Sanders said this was another example of people working together to maximize their assets.

“This is a grand occasion,” Sanders said. “This is an example of taking what we have to make what we need.”

Sanders said the benefits of the Black Belt Treasures would be felt all over the Black Belt and the state.

“This is an example of going the next step,” Sanders said. “Being able to bring something like this to the area is not only a plus for the people here, it is a plus for people all over Alabama.”

The idea for the building was talked about for several years before a plan was put into place. Marengo County Commissioner Max Joiner said Friday’s gathering showed what can be done when dreams are put into a successful plan.

“This goes back to the old saying of if you can imagine it you can do it,” Joiner said. “This started out as what some people call imagining, but now it is reality and I see nothing but growth and opportunity in the future.”

Much of the praise by those who attended the grand opening was aimed at Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission Executive Director John Clyde Riggs. Riggs has been credited as the man who made the dream work.

Riggs said there were several people deserving of praise and said the outpouring of support made him very proud.

“We just had so many people calling to tell us they wanted to come,” Riggs said. “I am overwhelmed and honored by that. AS much as anything I am honored that a person like Joe Bonner would fly in from Washington to be here. It is truly an honor.”

“We have only scratched the surface of what is out there in those 17 counties,” Riggs said. “I would say we have only touched about 20 percent of the artists and craftsmen that are out there and as the word gets out we will be able to spread this program out.”

Ernie Cowart

“I think this has been a great turnout and there has been great community support,” Cowart said. “This is a project that will benefit the whole region. I applaud John Clyde and this group for what they have done.”