Growing up in rural Adair County, small-town festivities like Orient’s Pumpkin Days were always a favorable childhood memory.
When I wasn’t tying water balloons at the “Super Splash” for our 4-H fundraiser, I roamed the town with friends playing games, listening to the disc jockey and looking for deals at the flea market.
Local vendors, clubs and churches used the weekend events as one of its major fundraisers for the year.
But through my high school years, the crowds seemed to dwindle, the community’s excitement faded into a scheduling hassle and most of the time, the events were costly for the respected host town.
Last Saturday was the first time in years I was able to attend the Pumpkin Days celebration. And what started as a soggy and chilly Saturday evolved into a terrific showing of community support.
The most pleasant surprise was the mix of younger adults taking leadership roles to organize the weekend. Orient residents Brad and Becky Kramer, Galen and Katie Geidel, Ryan Frederick and Matt Swanson, just to name a few, really stepped it up to make it a great weekend of events for locals and visitors of all ages.
The backdrop for Pumpkin Days was also very fitting. The older buildings added some nostalgia from the past, while the improvements made to Orient Express — the gas station — and the addition of Kramer’s Cafe have brought new life to the little town.
And even though I am sure Kramer’s Cafe could have made a nice profit serving food, Brad and Becky put up signs encouraging people to eat the meals served by the local churches and food vendors.
The entire weekend made me proud to say I went to school in Orient and was a part of a community that could put on an event like Pumpkin Days.
What would be great is if a group of young and enthusiastic adults could combine forces with older and experienced members of the community to create a year-round effort of community improvement and celebration.
Pumpkin Days proved that an older, traditional event can be revamped to maintain a common theme, but encourage all age groups to stay involved and participate.
A group of this caliber would require a lot of leadership. To complete projects would require fundraising and to suggest new ideas to improve community involvement would taking planning and cooperation with the city.
It could be advertised as a community pride group, open to anyone, but surviving on the energy of the young adults and knowledge of established members of the community.
But the projects would not have to be massive undertakings, especially at the beginning. A small group could help clean a spot in town that has been neglected. Another project could be providing the funds for a new mural or flowers.
Over time, the improved environment would also have a positive reflection on the community and the residents.
Let’s see what we can do to bring back that hometown pride.