Small Town Gatherings

by Elsie Eide Kelly

What is the purpose of small-town gatherings? It seems obvious that their primary goal is to pull the community together giving residents, both close in and farther afield, the opportunity to get to know each other better and make new acquaintances as people move into the area. It’s also a chance to show what groups are active in the community and hopefully recruit more members.

What does a gathering consist of? Well, for most small towns it would be a day or a weekend’s worth of events such as a parade; fund-raising breakfast, lunch or dinner; fishing derby for the kids; 3 on 3 basketball competition, sack-race, lawn mower race, horseshoes, and other fun games and contests; a car show; various local people with homemade goods to sell; fun run; raffles and silent auctions. Many of the things that you might find at a carnival are what will give a family some entertainment they might have waited a whole year to participate in.

parade kids

These gatherings are always run by volunteers who are people heavily involved in making a cohesive community that will offer the locals something fun and wholesome for all the families. It’s the perfect opportunity for bringing the whole community closer together and more in tune to their neighbors’ uniqueness and daily lives. Generally, these small towns have a number of farmers and ranchers living on the outskirts. The gatherings offer everyone a chance to get to know neighbors better.

All across the country small towns celebrate their existence every year mostly during summer months when the weather invites everyone to spend time outdoors with parades, barbecues, picnic fun and games. While some communities, especially close to the mountains, host gatherings in the winter when snows demand outhouse races and ice fishing derbies.

However, down here in Lincoln County our small towns prefer their activities on summer days when the winds aren’t howling and the sun welcomes families to get out, say howdy to the neighbors, and catch up on the latest news.

I was fortunate enough to attend the Wilbur Wild Goose Bill Days celebration a few weeks ago and then again the Creston Community Day where I was able to say hello to the farmers and ranchers that I’ve come to know over the five years I’ve been here. The ones I talked to were volunteering with the events of the day helping to make it a fun experience for young and old. There were lots of kids sharing this good time with their parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and neighbors all excited to watch the parade and look at the goods that the various folks had brought to show and sell or give away. The Creston Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) gave away their excellent “Bread of Life Centennial Cookbook” to lucky folks looking for a top-notch way to round out their own recipes. These tried and true selections have come down through the years to many oooohs and aaaaahs along the way! AND, what a pleasure it was to be able to bid on some great silent auction items and watch these events. The items being auctioned were donated by individuals and by area businesses so that the community could raise funds for the fire department’s gifts of money for items needed in the community. I was impressed by the good feelings that ran through the crowds and the laughter as they all remembered past gatherings and shared their latest news.

The event in Creston was sponsored by the District 7 Volunteer Fire Department with their members smoothly coordinating all the events. They told me that they had been fortunate enough, through their fund raising, to give the City of Creston $50,000 toward a new ambulance and it’s a beaut! They all work hard responding to emergencies and fires in Lincoln County in addition to their main jobs which support their families. Some are farmers and ranchers, others work for various businesses in the surrounding area. Their dedication to the community in which they live and work is admirable as well as being a gift to their neighbors and friends. All of these yearly community gatherings have the goal of raising money for their needs that would otherwise go unmet.

Various towns around the state have yearly gatherings that are often named for events or people in their early days that had profound influences on the development of those towns. Wild Goose Bill Days in Wilbur celebrates it’s founder; Reardon Mule Days celebrates the role of mules used in the wheat fields to till, plant, and harvest the many thousands of acres in the old days before machinery; Prospectors Days in Republic reminds residents of the importance of the gold miners back in the 1800s and how they contributed to the growth of the area; Odessa has two celebrations, the Spring Fling and the Oktoberfest, celebrating Germanic traditions of beer gardens and great food as well as theme oriented vendors. There are so many towns all round that hold celebrations all over our country (and Canada, too) that reflect the particular character of the towns and the surrounding countryside.

I would suggest that these gatherings can be a wonderful, more personal outing no matter what age you are. Your local newspapers and advertisers will give you information on when the celebrations will be held. Or, if you’re so inclined, pick a town and go online to find their website which will give you information on when and where. Give it a try. Take the kids. You’ll feel like part of the community and will keep going back for more!

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