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I spent the better part of this past weekend flying the YES! Weekly drone around downtown Winston-Salem, and things really come into perspective when you get the bird’s eye view.

To begin with, I was capturing stunning footage while flying over and around Bailey Park, which will presumably be the new dog park for people relocating to the Innovation Quarter. If there’s one thing twentysomethings love more than stainless steel appliances in a newly refurbished loft-style apartment in an old building that used to manufacture cigarettes, it’s having a dog park close by so that they can brag about how nice the grass is where they let their miserable cheesecake dogs move bowels.

Since the park is not open to the public yet, I figured I’d just fly the drone over and get a glimpse of the property before some official unveiling happens  and I’m told I’m not allowed to be there after dark. It was around 5:30 p.m., which meant the sun was just starting to drop behind the city and the sky was glowing that fluorescent blue and orange that makes photos something magical (it’s called magic hour for a reason.)

While circling the twin stacks of the old Bailey Power Plant, and simultaneously watching the live-streaming footage on my phone, it sort of hit me how beautiful Winston-Salem is becoming. Given that I am not from the area (I lived in Greensboro when I was in early elementary years), I guess I haven’t really taken the time to soak in just what all is offered, and what is coming to this wonderful city.

A local historian would probably be able to tell you all about how a seed was planted when this company began operating here, or how this business really kick-started the commerce in the city, or how this certain councilman or councilwoman really pressed for growth, but the fact is, the people are what is making Winston-Salem so gawt-dang awesome.

Just within the scope of the drone’s view was nearly one hundred years of history and growth. Directly beneath the quad-copter camera was an old factory that provided the foundation for tobacco sales, once the most promising things coming out of the Camel City, and now it lies in dilapidation. To the left of the screen was a coffee shop, one that a local musician and celebrity of sorts called “the freak culture mecca of this town” in reference to Krankies Coffee. Around the corner from, and towards the bottom of my viewing screen, was Black Lodge, a new bar that sees dirty skaters, tired construction workers, punk rock girls, and city councilmen all swishing around stiff liquor drinks or PBRs. How cool is that? And it’s no bigger than a walk-in closet in any given home over in Buena Vista, which is conveniently not within the view of my drone.

Circling back east, the view overlooks the landscape of new. The part of Winston-Salem that is seeing the most growth and infiltration from young, hungry, recent college grads who have found work at places like B/E Aerospace, or within the scope of healthcare, which is flourishing at places like Wake Forest Baptist Health and Forsyth Medical Center, among others. Beyond the Innovation Quarter lies the other side of US-52, a road that could be compared to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Valley of Ashes in that it separates the East Egg (east side of 52) – those who  are loyal Winston-Salemites with no plans of leaving thanks to steady jobs and familial ties – and the West Egg (downtown and Innovation Quarter)– the greenhorns of Winston-Salem who spout off about new jobs, new cars, college degrees and bottom lines.

Circling the drone back towards the city I could see the exposure on the camera was already attempting to compensate for the skyline, which meant the view would be mainly silhouette and blinking lights from traffic. Alas I was disappointed.

I landed the drone and inspected the footage to see what it would come out like when processed.

How beautiful is the skyline of Winston-Salem! Having only lived here for one year, an anniversary I just celebrated with my girlfriend in our quaint little home in the Ardmore neighborhood, I haven’t really been able to process and watch the growth that my neighbors have.

After I packed up the drone and logged the footage, I drove home thinking about what a year it’s been for me. My friend Justin Ackers, a young skateboarder whom I met while pushing around town, was riding with me, and he helped me contextualize my life here, albeit unbeknownst to him.

I’ve met friends over drinks that have become some of the closest people in my life at bars that I never thought I’d drink at again. I’ve met nurses, politicians, skaters, bartenders, musicians, artists, writers, readers, baristas, garbage men, mechanics, bouncers, counselors, and small business owners, all of whom have extended a welcoming handshake and inquiring salutation.

It might sound cheesy waxing on about how much I love living here, but at the end of the year – a year that was very transitional for me – I am able to look back with pride and know that this city has welcomed me in the same way it has welcomed the economic growth that is happening.

I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Instead, I think that I needed to move here. I needed to watch a city grow so that perhaps I could grow, and both have occurred.

I can’t be the only one that has gone through this change, but perhaps I am alone in waxing ad nauseam about it. I guess at the end of the day I am proud to say that I live in Winston-Salem, and I am even more proud to say that it’s now my home. !