Officials deem 200th birthday bash a success

Published 1:13 pm Monday, March 8, 2010

Before the moneybox went missing, the Franklin CountyBicentennial celebration had taken place across three towns withouttrouble, without incident, without the first cross word.

Franklin County Chancery Judge and festival organizer DebbraHalford was about to “shake and quiver” with rage because shethought a lowly thief had made off with $300 and spoiled theevent’s perfection. But there was no need to worry.

“It was locked up in the trunk of my car,” she said. “That’s beenthe only mishap this whole weekend. That, and my husband got histruck stuck in the mud in Bude.”

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Flawless is about the only word that can describe the 200thbirthday party Franklin County residents threw for themselves thisweekend, a three-day event that saw thousands of people crowd intoRoxie, Meadville and Bude for a wide range of activities. There hadbeen no incidents of any kind as of sunset Saturday, when Halfordreported nothing but smiling faces in the crowds and heavierwallets for the vendors.

“Each exhibit I went to has had a turnout that’s far more than theyexpected,” she said. “There was so many different things to do,there’s no way to do all of it.”

Halford estimated between 2,500 and 3,000 people attended thebicentennial festival, but the events are so diverse and so spreadout there’s no real way to tell. She reported facts like theselling of 1,000 food plates in Roxie Friday night, almost 1,000fish plates sold in Meadville Saturday and high profits from manyof the vendors on hand.

The local American Legion post didn’t think anyone would attendtheir ceremonies and almost didn’t participate in the bicentennial,Halford said. So many people visited their exhibit Saturday thelegionnaires had to perform their ceremony twice.

The entire affair is encouraging for future Franklin County events,Halford said.

“We’re going to start more community promoting. We’ve got so manypositive things going on in our community,” she said.

Natchez’s Judy Myers made the short trip back home to attend thebicentennial with her family Saturday. She said she enjoyed thefestival’s old-timey feel, and was glad the county’s 200th birthdaywas celebrated with a rich dose of the old days.

Myers was glad Franklin County didn’t celebrate the milestone withmodern, flashy items and events.

“I can buy that in a store,” she said. “We need to remember whereour heritage is, and this is a good way of honoring those who camebefore us.”

The Rev. Tony Mullins of Bude was right at home with old-timeevents like sack races and gospel singings. He described himself as”a conservative guy,” saying the festival’s atmosphere was justright for Franklin County.

“This is how I was raised,” Mullins said, standing on a hill andshielding his eyes from the sun as he watched the nearby mule pullevent. “I wish we’d do this every week.”

Rena White, a teacher at Franklin County Upper Elementary, was ofthe same mind. No need to wait another 200 years to enjoySaturday’s togetherness, she said.

“A lot of communities are getting away from friends, family andfellowship, and here in Franklin County we’re bringing it back,”White said.