The cornhole boards are in storage, the kettle popcorn has been consumed, and the Coconuts have gone home. What is left is a parade route of memories from this year’s Columbus Days and maybe a flowered lei, plastic cup or free token from a vendor in Frankfort Square.
On behalf of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce and the Columbus Days’ Board, subcommittees and a myriad of generous volunteers, MAHALO! (thank you!) for attending the weekend’s festivities.
It was rewarding to see how many businesses and their employees embraced the Hawaiian theme. Work groups proudly posted pictures of themselves wearing Hawaiian shirts. Display windows were decorated with surfboards, grass skirts, and totem pole designs. Fruity drinks, sandwich specials, and Hawaiian phrases were advertised on menus and marquees. Even our time-honored coronation of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella was bright with island-style trimmings.
This community celebration brings out the best in us, as a small town and as Americans. For a few days, we gathered together like cousins at a family reunion. We entered our babies, pets and talents in contests and were happy for whoever won. Our seniors tapped their toes to patriotic melodies played by the community band, and our teens sang karaoke to top hits we’ve never heard before. Dancers twirled across the stage wearing colorful costumes representing their generation, culture or dance company.
We caught up with old friends while pondering what to eat from our favorite barbecue, burger, or sweet treat vendor. We met someone new while admiring several city blocks of classic cars owned by those who spit-shined their hoods and hubcaps. We reconnected with our childhoods while watching a little one play dress up, drop into a dunk tank, or jump to her heart’s content in a bouncy house. We may have tried something new like climbing a wall, make a stuffed animal, or lip-sync.
Behind every band, booth, and beer was a volunteer or sponsor making sure attendees had a good experience. Columbus Days would not happen without our local businesses and hundreds of helping hands working together to set up booths, take down tents, post signs, call for donations, contact vendors, register contestants, judge contests, contract bands, round up volunteers, verify insurance certifications, write scripts, order trophies, take photos, hang lights, patrol the park, haul picnic tables, sweep the streets – the list goes on and on.
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The individuals behind the scenes truly care about this community and its people. They are generous men and women, many of whom work two or more jobs, yet find time to chair a committee or organize an event. They are business executives who set up tables and chairs, haul fencing, pick up garbage, or hang lights. They are business owners and retirees who work the information booth and take photos. They are the spouses or friends of committee members who do whatever is asked of them or a hometown senator who makes sure the sound system works for a band, emcee or special performance throughout the entire weekend. They are husband and wife teams, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and college students who believe in their community and simply want to give back.
And then there’s the parade.
This year’s procession consisted of nearly 100 profit and nonprofit entries, entertaining the crowds with everything from familiar motorcycle maneuvers and marching bands to volcanoes and a mouse-designed Volkswagen. Pickup beds were turned into beaches; cardboard became bamboo Tiki huts; and plastic palm trees were plentiful. Whether a sparkling new car or convertible, a family-owned fleet of tractors, a flatbed with church musicians, semis for business, or an array of antique firetrucks—the vehicle entries represented who we are as a community.
Our streets were lined with more parade watchers than we have seen in several years, and it was heartwarming to witness so many smiles, waves and applause for each other. This is especially true of our veterans, police, firefighters, and emergency response teams who helped our community through one of the worst natural disasters we have faced.
The Columbus Days’ Board and its subcommittees will meet again soon to discuss what went well and what will work better next year. They will brainstorm another great theme and what activities can complement it. Then, they’ll divide up the duties and get to work, all in effort to bring us together once again as friends, neighbors and family in 2020.
Thank you, once again, for your tremendous support, response, participation, and engagement in showing why the Columbus community is not only “Something Good,” but something very special.
Jeanne Schieffer is the president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.