Celebrating 150 years: A birthday party to remember

THE DAILY LEADER / KIM HENDERSON / Susan Hennington (left), Frances Taylor, and Linda Dykes prepare to serve birthday cake to those attending Wesson's sesquicentennial celebration.

THE DAILY LEADER / KIM HENDERSON / Susan Hennington (left), Frances Taylor, and Linda Dykes prepare to serve birthday cake to those attending Wesson’s sesquicentennial celebration.

The Weather Channel’s on-air personalities weren’t the only ones describing Saturday’s conditions as nearly perfect. After months of planning, projecting, and procuring, Wesson’s Sesquicentennial Committee could proclaim it, too.

“It’s been a day that exceeded our every expectation,” Chamber of Commerce President Marilyn Britt admitted with obvious satisfaction late Saturday afternoon as shoppers still wound their way through vendors’ booths.

Events actually began before the picture-perfect day, however, with members of the Copiah-Lincoln Community College Jazz Band christening an open-air stage in Wesson’s downtown area Friday evening with swing-time standards like “All of Me” and an unexpected vocal rendition of the 1960s dance song “The Loco-Motion”. Opening ceremonies and a parade, complete with beauty queens from the town’s 1964 centennial, combined to get things rolling Saturday morning, but most spectators agree it was the historical museum – put together especially for this year’s special Founders Day – that eventually stole the show.

Throughout the day streams of visitors lined up to view displays showcasing items as varied as Lula Greer’s framed 1945 Colette uniform and a late 1800s mourning hat. Organizers even hauled in a truckload of dirt, too, in an effort to construct an authentic indoor garden plot.

Event planner Dixie Thornton, the mastermind behind the exhibits spanning two historic buildings across from Wesson’s City Hall, called it a collaborative effort.

“The people that loaned and donated their family treasures, the stories they shared – that’s our lineage,” she said after doors closed Saturday evening. Thornton explained that her idea was to create a museum focused on significant elements of the town’s history, rather than year increments. “In my mind, the title was ‘From Mill Town to Home Town,’ because that’s what we are.”

Among the treasures visible in an area dedicated to business interests were wooden doors from long-gone Perritt’s Grocery Store. “The hardware on these doors is cast iron, and it’s similar to what was on the mill buildings,” Thornton said.

She pointed to the original steeple from the town’s Presbyterian church as another significant find, as well as an antique suit coat contributed by current Wesson resident Kate Hampton. Hampton, a descendent of Mississippi Mills Clerk James Samuel Rea, said she was happy to loan several of her family’s heirlooms to the museum.

“I’m glad the town honors its history. Young people today need to understand the ingenuity it took for men to build this community,” she shared while enjoying Saturday evening’s offerings on the grounds of the Old Wesson School.

In addition to a complimentary meal including a birthday cake for 300 made by Election Commissioner Frances Taylor, nighttime partygoers were treated to performances by entertainer Babs Woods and the Dixieland Cloggers.

Afterward Wesson Mayor Alton Shaw displayed the contents of a recently uncovered 50-year-old time capsule and invited residents to consider what should be included in a new container citizens will bury next month.

Concluding the sesquicentennial’s schedule of events was a set-to-music fireworks display orchestrated by pyrotechnics expert David Nichols.

Nichols, who also serves as mayor of neighboring town Monticello, said Saturday evening’s fair weather conditions couldn’t have been any better for the show.

His “nearly perfect” assessment only added to a list of other Saturday successes, giving cause for many of those enjoying the view from lawn chairs to credit Wesson’s 150th birthday celebration as one for the history books.