In a world of divisiveness, nothing can bring us together quite like national attention – the good kind, anyways.
Warwick has seen enough negative national attention in the past year, with a school lunch debt issue that blew up into a mainstream fiasco and resulted, ironically enough, in hundreds of thousands of donations given to forgive that debt, which triggered more attention.
But Warwick finds itself in the national spotlight once again for a different, more positive reason, as T.F. Green Airport was nominated as one of the Top 10 Small Airports by USA Today. Not only is the airport nominated, it’s leading the pack with just a few days of voting to go. Voting closes on Jan. 13 and the winner will be announced on Jan. 24.
The nomination is a fascinating exercise in how sporadic moments of strong local pride can override much more commonly held views rooted in cynicism. To put it another way, this contest provides a perfect experiment to display the duality in which many Rhode Islanders constantly live in, either knowingly or obliviously.
Rhode Islanders are often fiercely loyal to their state and bitingly cynical about it – simultaneously. It is not uncommon to see a Rhode Islander trash the state’s political leadership in one tweet, only to shower high praise on its natural resources and historical significance in the next. Residents have free reign to criticize everything about the state, but if an outsider makes a corny “smallest state” joke? We’re like an angry mama bear protecting her cub.
The same could certainly be said in Warwick about T.F. Green. On one hand, you have people who fully appreciate the airport as an economic generator and a facilitator of travel within the state – an incredibly important engine that powers the city’s crucial hospitality industry. On the other hand, you have those who think the airport doesn’t pay enough in taxes, contributes to negative environmental consequences in the surrounding water and airways and took an unknown amount of property tax revenue off the books by seizing entire neighborhoods to expand its runway.
There are people who praise the airport’s ease of accessibility and travel options and those who mock the airport’s strategy of hurling incentives at big name airlines only to have them leave the airport within a year or less. There are those who want to rename the airport to something more nationally recognizable, and those who view that idea as utter heresy.
The point is, in a state where people have strong opinions about everything, T.F. Green is no less divisive. However, it’s our divisive airport. Nothing will unite a bunch of Warwick natives more than when someone from out of state claims they just landed in Providence when arriving at Green. The home airport of the six-time world champion Patriots doesn’t reside in Providence, it lives in Warwick.
For all of the grumbling contrarians that call Rhode Island home, people more often innately want to be proud of the place that they call home. Maybe their family has resided here for generations, maybe they moved here as a kid or maybe they thought the state was a good place to plant roots for a new family. Regardless of how you wound up here, Rhode Islanders view themselves as the scrappy underdog and want to see other people recognize the positive attributes that made them fall in love with the state in the first place.
Through this contest, Warwick can find itself a small piece of national pride. Scrappy underdogs don’t always win, but when they’re in the running for a victory they will rally support like no other group of people on Earth. This is why T.F. Green is ranked first in this seemingly inconsequential competition, and why it has a good chance at winning.
You can vote for T.F. Green by visiting www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-small-airport/t-f-green-airport-warwick-r-i.