Dolphins are cute, smart and they like the water

by Brian Clarey

I’m aware of the dreaded Greensboro disease, the tendency among its people to nix any new idea or initiative out of hand.

Don’t give any corporate incentives to Dell – they’re trying to rip us off. Downtown Greensboro has too many bars. A new baseball stadium will never work. And who wants a museum on Elm Street to commemorate that historic sit-in on Feb. 1? Not they.

I myself have fallen victim to this malady over the years. I am not crazy about the idea of an old-timey carousel, as proposed by the Rotary Club of Greensboro.

And YES! Weekly called bullshit on the $300-million complex set for downtown, the one that was supposed to include an iMax theater, bowling lanes and some kind of strange funkytown roller rink.

But I was all for the ballpark, which I still love to this day, and anytime somebody wants to start a roller derby team, let me know. I will coach for free.

I believe in the progression of downtown Greensboro. I support businesses in the district and spend as much time there as I can. My family, for a time, considered living down there.

And I believe in its future. When I walk the streets I envision what they will look like 10 years, 15 years, 20 years hence. I imagine a clean and organized district that still retains some of the chaos of the urban landscape, a center of culture and fellowship, civic pride and public utility.

I love the law school, the theaters, the galleries the restaurants and bars, the college campuses on the outskirts. I love the park, though I bristle a bit at all the rules.

Not Las Vegas, certainly, or New York City, or even Charlotte, for that matter, but that’s getting it a bit closer.

A place where there’s sure to be some action. And man, I dig the action.

Action, of course, is a subjective thing. I like a ballgame, a nice dinner, live music, maybe a couple drinks. I like art shows and release parties, tastings and benefits. A fair amount of my time spent downtown these days is at the YMCA, the library or the Greensboro Children’s Museum.

I love bringing my children downtown, giving them a taste of urbanity and culture, a life-in-the-big-city kind of thing, and I imagine it enthralls them in the same way my own childhood trips into New York City did me.

Apples and oranges, I know, but children have no sense of scale.

Anyway… what I’m saying is that I very much care about downtown Greensboro as it morphs from what it is to what it will be.

Which is why I have to go against the vision of Mayor Yvonne Johnson when she suggests, as she did in a March 26 interview with the (NC) A&T Register’s Ashley Withers, that what downtown Greensboro needs is dolphins.

Yeah, dolphins. They’re cute and smart and, like the mayor says, kids with special needs like to swim with them.

The dolphinarium – which I didn’t even know was a word until now – will feature a dolphin show, scuba diving and a research arm, according to the mayor.

Can you imagine a world-class marine biological research center right here in downtown Greensboro?

Frankly, I cannot.

For one, in case nobody’s noticed: We’re landlocked. Every single aquarium-style attraction I’ve ever visited – and that’s more than three of them – actually exist in close proximity to the water. Even the one in Oklahoma City is near the fake river they dug.

And dolphins are great, yeah, but I’ve never seen one flipping up Buffalo Creek. As a totem animal for the city, I deem it inappropriate.

But I like where the mayor is going with this. We do have plenty of adult-style fun downtown, and I’m not averse to doing something for the children. Animals are fine with me, too, as long as I don’t have to feed them.

Let’s scratch the obvious ploys – no horse-drawn carriage rides trough the streets, no dog track (though I could easily be convinced to get on board with this one), no camel rides or skunk fights. We want to be original here.

I’ve got it: How about a giant butterfly habitat? Imagine a giant hothouse full to bursting with flowers both native and exotic, the air aflutter with the gentle beating of a million tiny wings. We have more than 150 species of butterfly native to North Carolina, each beautiful in its own way, and their patters would make a beautiful mosaic against the Carolina-blue sky. And because butterflies only live a couple months, the exhibit will be an ever-changing one. Research and learning opportunities abound as both scientists and students monitor the caterpillars through larval and pupal stages, and think of the symbolism of an adult butterfly emerging from the coccoon.


The butterfly could become our totem, like horses on Ocracoke, and soon there would be butterfly-themed businesses and urban artwork on the streets. We’d lure lepidopterists from around the world, and a small cottage industry would emerge based on butterfly-shaped souvenirs.

Instead of mouse ears, visiting children would don antennae and wings. We could make a signature pastry and sell it on the streets. Think of the T-shirts – the merchandising alone would bring in a fortune.

Great idea? Yep. But they’ve already got one in High Point, a privately owned enterprise called the All-A-Flutter Butterfly Farm. Damn you, Google.

How about something with monkeys?

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