July always brings the familiar to my little home town nestled in the mountains of East Tennessee...the Fourth parade down Center Street, fun on any one of the numerous surrounding lakes, the first ripe local tomatoes arriving, and of course, FunFest.
I'm sure those of you not from my little home town are wondering- What the heck is a FunFest? In most simple terms, FunFest is a community celebration about just being a community.
Now if that sounds a little too Beijing socialist or red communist to you, the definition of community is more akin to family and much less about government and sociological ideas when it comes to FunFest.
People from all aspects of the demographic scale come together, have fun and celebrate at the nine day event. Believe it or not, the three-decades running annual festival isn't centered around making money or the opportunity...well...there is ample opportunity...to participate. The headline concert this year was the Zac Brown Band, and tickets were just $15 inside the local high school's football stadium. Of course, you could do like me and my family and just sit outside the stadium and hear the music just as good.
Now believe me, I wasn't trying to get out of paying $15 to hear a band I couldn't name a single hit for. Plenty of people were excited about the concert, and tickets were sold out days before the Saturday night performance. I was just adhering to our family tradition of laying a tarp out along the main road (which is closed) and in front of the Taste of Tri-Cities smorgasbord of food vendors, sitting around with family and friends talking and having a good time, visiting with the number of other family and friends also gathered, eating, laughing and waiting for the event- ending fireworks display that closes the door on another year. It's just what we do...and I thank God we have the opportunity.
There are races and sporting competitions of every kind, a parade, dances for the young and elderly, an free outdoor movie for the whole family, pageants, smaller block parties, dinner shows, a morning and evening with a dozen or more hot-air balloons launching, a community medallion hunt, a food vending area for local restaurants, and all-in-all just a lot of good, wholesome fun with family and neighbors.
Even though the local temperatures soared into the upper 90's most of last week, people still flocked to events and had a great time. Most of the ticket is picked up by local businesses, and hoards of volunteers come out each year to take care of everything from traffic control to litter pick-up. Normally, my local town boast a population just north of 50K, but FunFest sees the city swell to over double that number as area communities join in on the event or some who have moved away return to vacation and catch up. It's a win-win situation for both residence and businesses of our friendly little town.
FunFest originated from an idea to unite the increasingly divided community of 1980 that was at odds over a number of political and social issues, and it has blossomed to success beyond all expectations from those plans 30 years ago. There are still a lot of things to gripe and moan about in the world these days. I'm just glad for at least one night each summer as FunFest comes to a close...all that seems a million miles away from my little home town.