Brent and I have volunteered for our local festival one way or another since high school. I don’t know that we’ve ever thought that much about it. We just did it. The festival is put on entirely by volunteers. Volunteers sell buttons, run the events, man the dances, prepare the publicity, organize the parades, etc, etc, etc. And we’re not talking about three tractors driving down the street followed by a watermelon seed spitting contest. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, we just don’t do it. From time to time there has been a cow chip throwing contest.) This is one of the larger festivals in the state, and it is from start to finish run by volunteers and a very dedicated city crew.
This summer marks the 12th anniversary since Brent was the Admiral (It’s a water festival. I was called the First Mate. ugh.), or president of the festival. We spent three years making decisions on behalf of the festival and driving the float to parades. Believe me, you take to your bed the week after the festival is done your Admiral year. It’s pretty stressful and hectic.
Plus, I had Colin our first year, two weeks before the festival started, and we had a new baby to add to our already full schedule.
Even though we struggled with new baby exhaustion and some difficult personalities those three years, I would not trade that experience for anything. We learned and grew a lot as a couple and as citizens of our community. We made friendships that are like family to us now. We have continued to work as part of the festival team ever since.
We were tremendously proud to be asked to be parade marshals this year. Maybe it doesn’t sound like a big deal to you to ride in the front of a small town parade, but it was a huge deal to us — an honor we never thought we’d receive. I really struggled with the idea that we were no less deserving than any of the other hundreds of people who volunteer to make our festival a success. Then my sister said, “It’s the festival’s way of saying ‘thank you’. Let them say ‘thank you’.”
Even though she’s nearly a decade younger, Sarah has a way of putting things into perspective for me. I am so glad she is my sister and friend . . . and the smart one.
So we rode the parade and let our festival say thank you, and we said thank you right back. Thank you for the ways we have been changed. Thank you for the chance to help make our small community great. Thank you for caring about us as we care about you — our home, our festival, our small town family.
My dear childhood friend came to stay with us a night (not because he wanted to see me, but because he wanted to meet my fun cousin Jenny. Nevertheless . . .) and he said, “I am jealous of your small town life.”
In the past I might have offered back an incredulous, “Why???”
But at this point in my life, I know why — because it’s a good small town life with a great festival.