Last weekend marked the 84th Laurel County Homecoming - a tradition targeted to highlight Laurel County and its history.
As a member of the Homecoming committee, I cannot praise this year's volunteers enough for their dedication and hard work.
If you did not attend any events of this year's celebration, it is simply your loss. The Homecoming offered four days of events featuring the people of Laurel County in a wealth of activities. Thursday offered activities for children. The Power Wheels race brought out so many children to try their hand at racing that two separate divisions had to be offered. Then the annual Miss and Master pageant displayed some of the county's youth from infants to preteen that brought a large crowd to the hillside of Levi Jackson State Park.
Friday offered an evening of musical entertainment and featured several local groups. The clubhouse was nearly full with friends, family and co-workers of the eight honorees at the Honorees banquet while Saturday was a fun-filled day that launched with the Homecoming parade in downtown London at 10 a.m. before returning the activities to the park for pet parade, fashion show, Doxie Derby and local musical performers taking the amphitheater stage. Sunday's gospel music was held at the shelter house but the voices of praise echoed through the park all afternoon.
It takes immaculate planning, fundraising, organizing and hard work coupled with unflinching dedication and teamwork to make such events happen.
This year the existing (and returning) committee members were blessed with a cooperative spirit. Much of the groundwork was done by Missy Bundy. After that, Kelly Burton, Phil Smith, Jeannie House Osborne, Becky Littleton, Karlyle Young and Heather Holliday - among others - stepped up to really make the difference in the outcome of this year's event. There was none of the "my event" mentality - it was all a dedicated and sincere effort on the part of each and every person involved to pull off the many facets of the Homecoming.
But the final show involves coordination for the set-up, another area of which most of the public is unaware. President Nick Minton oversees that area of the Homecoming, spending most of Wednesday through Monday to ensure that the food and craft vendors have all the equipment and access they need while putting out the signs throughout town on the Sunday before the festival begins. His backup is also spotted by his parents, Don and Wilma Minton, all week long. Wilma is the "fundraising queen" in most instances and Don helps provide the physical support.
Chelsea Philpot sets up a pageant that is one of the most organized and cohesive pageants in the area and guides the contestants through any initial pre-pageant jitters to a polished and professional show.
Lana Smith dedicates herself to saving as many unwanted animals to rescue organizations and showcases her interests in putting on Bark in the Park and offering events to highlight both children and animals each year. There are undoubtedly others whom I have overlooked but please know your help is sincerely appreciated.
A very special shoutout goes to Karlyle Young, Becky Littleton, Phil Smith and Kelly Burton. They stepped up, got involved and juggled many duties to make this year's event outstanding. Kelly, while planning for next month's World Chicken Festival, did radio spots to advertise the event and secured some extra funding to assist with the costs to carry out the Laurel County Homecoming. She brought in her parents, Ken and Cheryl Harvey, and her husband and son to assist with whatever she needed, while she also live streamed most of the events so those staying at home could still watch. At last count, over 14,000 people had viewed those videos.
Lily Fire Department also had a strong showing, bringing their food booth as well as setting up a prop that allowed children to "extinguish" a house with "fire" in the doors and windows. The children crawled through a channel to show how firefighters often go into unknown areas, picked up a water hose, then with the help of a trained firefighter, sprayed water on the flames showing through the openings of the prop to get a sense of the duties of a firefighter. That was a special addition to this year's event that debuted this year and hopefully, will continue in the coming years.
Although the crowds at the park have declined over the years, those working on the event realize that high school football season kicks off over Homecoming weekend and other events are held throughout the county. But in spite of each and every challenge faced, the cooperative spirit defined as teamwork was the true success of the event and those who put their time and effort into this year's planning can hold up their head with pride.
That's what happens when people work together with one purpose. That's what happens when "we" instead of "me" defines success.
It was a pleasure working with such a great group of people this year. I cannot thank each of you enough, especially Don and Wilma Minton, Phil Smith and Kelly Burton for your endless energy and dedication to the Laurel County Homecoming. May the efforts of each person involved be well rewarded.