Baldwin County is the fastest growing county in Alabama, and Fairhope is the fastest growing city in the county. Suddenly, our schools, restaurants and grocery stores are crowded and there’s actually traffic on the four lane. There’s a tiny hint of tension in the air and the City Council has recently enacted a moratorium on any new construction until they can figure out what to do. Mercy!
Anyway, I’ve been here 17 years, but I was born in South Alabama and grew up only about 40 miles from here, so I kind of slid over into Fairhope, and have been able to fit in without too much trouble. After talking it over with long time residents, they agreed the turning point and flood of people really started around 2012, so if you’ve moved here since then, you are experiencing a new kind of Fairhope we’ve never seen before. Although, one long-time resident blamed the changes on a 1994 story in Money Magazine that named Fairhope as the #2 place in the nation to retire. “That brought all the old-geezers here,” said the spry 84 year old.
Newcomers, who are both young and old, and are coming from close by towns as well as far away places — really can bring wonderful energy and ideas, but like most cities, Fairhope has its own characteristics and unspoken guidelines. So, here are a few helpful tips for fitting in, gathered from from the people who have been here for, “a good bit,” which translates into, “longer than you.” And don’t worry, I heard it too. Live and learn, I say, and welcome to town.
20 tips for fitting in to Fairhope
1.Jump in and help. You moved here because you love our parades, festivals, art shows, library and community theatre, so don’t sit back and make us do all the work. We want to get to know you and if we’re going to keep having these fun events, we need your help. The no-kill dog shelter doesn’t just run by itself, and the more residents we have, the more help we need to raise money for kibble
2. Don’t complain about the line at the post office. It’s a sure sign you’re not from around here and it actually hurts our feelings because we consider it a social place, and if you don’t chat with us just a little bit while we’re waiting in line, we think you don’t like us. Fun fact: I was given the perfect recipe for pimento cheese while standing in the post office line.
3.Get ready to have someone invite you to visit their church. It isn’t an attack on your spirituality, it’s just what we do when we like you. Our churches are important parts of our community, and we just want to share the joy. (But don’t sit in our pew).
4.If you are absolutely set on building a new house, please hire a local architect. Just because you tore out that house plan from Southwestern Magazine 20 years ago, and kept it in your sock drawer, doesn’t mean it’s going to fit into your new community. We have neighborhoods with all kinds of houses, brick, European, stucco, ranch and bungalows — but if you build your modern, dark grey 6,000 square foot house between two 1,500 square foot historic coastal cottages, people will talk, and believe me, in Fairhope, you don’t want to be discussed.
5. Shop local. Seriously.
6.Fairhope is a happy place, but don’t think just because we smile at you, it means we’re flirting. It just means, “hello.”
7.When it comes to phone numbers, “928” is the gold standard and will open doors for you. It’s rumored that someone lost a past mayor’s election because his number started with “990.” (A little known secret I’ll share, you can transfer your 928 number to your cell phone!).
8.“Fruit and Nut” is not a commentary on personality.
9.When we beep the car horn, it means, “hey there, buddy!” If someone cuts us off in traffic, we don’t think of touching the horn, but instead think, “Bless his heart. I hope he’s not rushing to the hospital.” Then, we say a little prayer for him.
10.At some point, you will feel the urge to start painting, sculpting, singing, writing, playing an instrument or acting. We’re a creative town (a little heavy on the dulcimer players), and everyone eventually gets the bug. Even if you’re bad at it, give your creative side a chance to shine. It’s fun.
11.Satsumas. Know them, grow them, eat them, share them.
12. Although Fairhope is a bit more liberal than the rest of the state, pay attention, because at the end of the day, you’re still falling asleep in God-fearing-Bible-believing-gun-toting-Ala-freaking-bama. If you are going to have a problem with that, you may want to consider moving to our Bizarro – World cousin, beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA. Otherwise, hush-up.
13.Long debated, is the question of whether we are, “Fairhopers” or, “Fairhopians.” Each version is printed different places, and it will be fiercely debated for years to come.
14.You’re not really a Fairhoper until Donnie Barrett knows who you are.
15.Those, “in the know,” always keep an old box or bag in the back of their car in case they catch the Flower Fairies, who will share the pruned blossoms and discarded bulbs with you.
16.At some point, you’ll need to get a bow for your mailbox. We put bows on everything, including our children, doors, trees and little dogs. A fluffy bow is the way to go.
17.We like to match the flowers, so try wearing bright colors (even the gentlemen). All black is usually saved for evening, or days where there’s a stiff body in the room. (Seersucker and white shoes are only allowed from Easter to Labor Day).
18.It’s considered bad form to knock little children down for Mardi Gras beads. (And along those same lines, remember, we don’t push in Fairhope).
19.Even though you’ve found paradise, keep a lid on it. We’ve got to draw the line somewhere. If Fairhope is ever in the running for a “best of” contest, all the locals secretly vote against it (oh, give me a break, you know it’s true!).
20.Most importantly, no matter how much it kills you, don’t ever, ever, under any circumstance, begin a sentence with, “We did it better back in . . .”
Now, welcome to town. We’re glad y’all are here.