Time was, you could earn yourself a free ride on a carousel by successfully snatching a brass ring that hung off the side of the ride as your horse came around the circle.
You had to be ready, and you had to be quick, and your timing had to be on the money.
The Sandusky area's in a similar situation, now that Gov. Ted Strickland has signed a $1.6 billion economic stimulus package.
Because of a dispute in Columbus over whether to use money from turnpike tolls -- an idea northern Ohio legislators shot down -- or to use money from Ohio's reserve "rainy day" fund -- which Strickland doesn't want to do -- the governor used his line-item veto to kill the rainy day fund proposal, but left in the requirement the $200 million that was to have come from the turnpike be spent.
Under the original plan, Columbus has a year to come up with another source for the $200 million -- although the rainy day fund will supply the money if nothing else turns up.
And that gives this region a year to come up with a request.
And as with the old-time carousel, someone else is ready to snatch at the brass ring if we miss.
Let's not miss. Let's figure out what we want, how much money it will take, and how we can put that money to use to grow our region's economic hopes -- and demonstrate to those in charge of awarding the grants we know what we want to do.
More importantly, let's get together as a region to identify what we need, how much it would cost, and what we could do with the money to achieve the specific goals and the larger ones to be built on that foundation.
Not just Sandusky. Not just Perkins. Not just Erie County or Huron County or whatever fiefdom someone's built inside lines drawn on a map. Let's get as many names as possible behind a request that's as specific and thought-out as possible.
In other words, let's act as though we deserve the money.
So what if we're not "The Three Cs" of Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati which some claim get all the love from the state? So what if we're not Toledo, which is too preoccupied with not being one of the Three Cs? We have assets we can put to use, if only we have the will and the wit to use them.
We need our political leaders to work together to chase this money, instead of fighting each other just because that's the way we've always done it.
The more names on the request form, the better our chances -- and the more quickly they are there, the better our chances for getting some of the funding that frequently ends up in only the metro areas.
Let's act as if we deserve to win.
Because we're coming around to the brass ring.