Connecting with the people in your community Aqus Community Crawl is helping bring people together

Members of the 24-Hour Theater Company perform an original play they wrote and rehearsed in 24 hours during an Aqus Community Crawl in March.

“How do you walk up to somebody who you might see across the room, saying, ‘How am I going to get into conversation with that person?’” asks John Crowley, founder of the Aqus Community Crawl.

This weekend’s community crawl, on Saturday, Oct. 15, intends to answer that question. The theme will be animal prints, and participants will be visiting five businesses, including: Petaluma Bounty Farm; The River House for an artist opening and reception with artist Jordan Pepper; Belle Epoque; The Find-Petaluma, a new consignment store located on Western Avenue; and Pazzo for an evening of dancing.

The community crawl will also feature a performance by the 24-Hour Theater Company. Writers and performers will get together the evening before the crawl to write and produce a three-act play, learn their lines and prepare to perform each act of the resulting piece before an audience at three different locations on the crawl.

According to Crowley, this is the second time the 24-Hour Theater Company has been featured on the Aqus Community Crawl.

“It’s just a great way to keep people captivated, give them something to listen to, amuse them and inspire them into theater,” he said.

The community crawl was the result of a boring Saturday night eight years ago. Crowley, a Dublin native whose family owns a pub back in Ireland, was missing the feeling of community that the Irish pub provides.

“I had just moved to the community and wanted to go down to my local pub in Ireland to connect with people, and that doesn’t really happen here in America as much as it does in Ireland,” Crowley explained. “So I sent an e-mail out to a bunch of friends saying, ‘Well, let’s go to Volpi’s at 9, Graziano’s at 10 and someplace else at 11,’ and then 15 people showed up.”

As years went by, the event grew exponentially and is now held every two months due to popular demand. Crowley said he expects about 200 to 300 people to participate in the Aqus Community Crawl this weekend.

Crowley also kept the event going to re-educate Petaluma residents about what the pub is mainly for, which is being the center of the community.

“It was a sort of cross-generational thing where people just got together and started connecting with each other,” he said. “It was definitely not about drinking. It’s about connecting with people that live in your community.”

To help further the connection between people, every community crawl has a specific theme to help keep the event lively, according to Aqus Café patron Beth Meredith.

“It just helps breaks the ice with people,” she said.

Crowley believes that, despite humans being social beings, that people aren’t very good at it. The incorporation of the themes help start a conversation, which have lead to many conversations among Petaluma residents.

“They realize that they live on the same street or they go to the same church, or their kids are on the same baseball team or go to the same school,” Crowley said. “They’ll have some kind of connection. Without that conversation, you don’t have any connection. This provides and starts that conversation.”

To Aqus Café patron Eric Storm, Crowley’s networking skills have helped foster the opportunity for residents to step outside of their social comfort zone.

“I see Aqus as one of the hubs of Petaluma, so it’s just nice to meet people you wouldn’t necessarily run into, because different circles overlap here,” Storm said.

With the Aqus Community Crawl helping to promote a better sense of community, Crowley added that the city’s level of connectedness within itself will increase — a term he describes as social capital.

“Is your community open to having conversations with strangers?” he asked. “Do you trust strangers? Do you trust other people in your community, or are we all living in gated communities and don’t want to connect with each other and don’t trust each other?”

“We want the community to thrive, and how we make that happen is increase the level of connectedness between people,” he added.