Wesson Founders Day faithful still turn out

Published 11:49 am Monday, May 3, 2010

WESSON – Shouts and hollers went up throughout the crowd justafter noon when the morning’s light drizzle gave way to a shortburst of heavy, cool rain.

Most of the people looked for ways to wait it out, moving underthe awnings of nearby buildings or quickly making friends withthose who had tents, but for 17-year-old Heather Tipps, the 21stannual Wesson Founders Day was over.

“Well, it’s raining,” she said as she strode away under a wideumbrella, car keys in hand.

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Others joined Tipps in a miniature lunchtime exodus fromdowntown Wesson when the rain, just teasing since sunrise, finallybegan to drive its point home on the heads of the festival’sguests, making a slim Founders Day slimmer still. The wet and windyweather kept the town’s annual throw-down on a short leash thisyear, driving away people who couldn’t just grin and bear it andkeeping some townsfolk, and even vendors, at home to beginwith.

But Founders Day wasn’t a total loss.

An estimated 800 people came up with enough fortitude – andumbrellas – to stick it out on a damp Saturday to sample thebarbeque, hear the music and buy the wares that lined both sides ofHighway 51 the short few hundred yards through the town. Festivalorganizers kept everything running on schedule, leaving it up tothe people to stay or go.

“I have been impressed this many people have come out on a daylike today,” said Marilyn Britt, chairman of the Wesson Chamber ofCommerce’s Founders Day committee. “We were committed to followingthrough. We’re just weathering the weather.”

Chamber president Stephen Ashley said a sunny Founders Day wouldnormally have drawn around 3,000 people. After last week’s deadlycentral Mississippi tornado and this week’s predictions of more tocome, having the festival’s attendance come in just under 1,000wasn’t so bad, he said.

Heading into the weekend, the National Weather Service waspredicting severe thunderstorms for the area, with possibilities offlash flooding and even hail. While some storms did cross the stateSaturday, the only flash flooding to hit Founders Day was easilydefeated with a good hat or an umbrella.

“I think there are a lot of folks who would like to be out here,but the weather has kept them at home,” Ashley said.

Those who got up and hit the town Saturday managed to find agood time, for the most part.

“We planned on getting soaking wet. We were coming anyway,” saidWesson’s Sara Westbrook, who formed her kids into a little paradeand took in the festival. “There’s still plenty of things tosee.”

Saide Durbin drove up from Amite, La., to sell fine wooden goodsfor her operation, S and L Crafts. A dreary forecast was not enoughto keep her at home.

“Honey, I’ve been doing this show for 15 years,” she said.

Florence’s Gail Giebitz could have gone back to her camper atLake Lincoln to get dry and toasty, but a little precipitationwasn’t enough to keep her from her third Founders Day.

“I think it’s fine,” she said with an eye on the gray clouds. “Idrag my friends here every year.”

The friend she dragged from Florence this year, CherylHourguettes, wasn’t quite as enthusiastic.

“It’s not my favorite,” she said of the rain. “Do you see myhair? It’s not supposed to look like this.”