Gardner was the best place to grow up (an op-ed written for my hometown newspaper)

This was originally published on April 28th, 2018 in The Gardner News in Gardner, MA. 

Gardner was the best place to grow up
By Jason Sandagon

I’ve thought a lot about what made me who I am today, which got me to thinking about how Gardner is the best place for someone like me to grow up. Gardner is a city for creative people to find their way.

To start, I want to talk about how the people of Gardner are by far the best reason as to why it was a great place to grow up creative. The people are so supportive in whatever you are currently doing or want to do. They love local business and can appreciate local artisans. They love the idea that creative people come from their town, it’s something they are proud of. I can’t count the amount of times I was told that the movie “School Ties” was shot in Gardner at the Blue Moon Diner. I also can’t tell how inspirational hearing that was. Gardner has such a great community of artists and art lovers. It really doesn’t matter what kind of art you want to make because there is always someone in Gardner who wants it. The people of Gardner genuinely care, and that is something you can’t get anywhere else.

The city of Gardner is great, too. There are a lot of things the city has to offer that a lot of people overlook. It’s quiet and beautiful. It’s the kind of place where you want to get on your bike and just ride around with no headphones in so you can take in its beauty. I loved walking the streets quietly with a notebook and writing down what I think other people’s stories are, something I still do now here in New York City. But most of all, the greatest things the city had to offer that shaped me into me were: the movie theater, the ice rink, and an open air amphitheater. The movie theater was great because it offered cheap movie tickets, and movies, both of which were something I liked. The ice rink offered me a space to get over writers block or to just relax. I would be there every Saturday night for free skate, and I would gather my thoughts together to then go home, and write more. The open air amphitheater offered me hope — hope that one day I would gain such a following with my comedy that they would invite me to perform on that stage for all of Gardner to see. To watch me go from being nobody to someone who had a sold-out show. That image was so burned into my head that it made me work harder and work more, working my way into “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” and then leaving there to pursue my own television endeavors. 

Gardner was the best place for me to grow up. It’s the best place for anyone creative to grow up. It’s the only place where local artists get displayed at restaurants. The only place where local musicians get chosen to perform over outsiders. Gardner is like being in a members-only club, but instead of leathers jackets, we adorn shirts that say “Gahd-Nah.” It really is a great place.