The party of the century took place in my hometown this weekend. I sit here this morning at the ranch, my cousins and aunt and uncle visiting from Texas likely milling around the cabin in the barnyard over the hill, getting ready for another day in North Dakota, just one of the many family’s who made the trip back home to celebrate.
It’s fitting then that they would be spending their nights in the very spot that raised my grandfather and then raised my aunt and dad and uncle, right above where the old shack used to sit, right next door to the old red barn, family feet still making tracks in this mud.
I can’t tell you what it means to me to have them here and I’m sure they can’t explain that the miles and time don’t make a difference, that this is always home.
I am certain that among the thousand plus people who celebrated with us, most would say the same.
There’s coffee at my desk and I’m nursing a sunburn and tired feet. I have the whole summer ahead of me now, packed with more stages, more cows to chase, more events to plan and more sun to catch, but what I’m thinking now is “phew, we pulled it off.”
And that I’m proud to have been a part of it.
Because for two years we’ve been planning the bands and the art show, the kids games and the sidewalk sales, the film festival and the magicians, the clowns and the books and the auction and the big free feed under the tent.
We didn’t plan on rain, but we knew it was inevitable. We didn’t plan for a party in the mud, but we had one and it was great.
We’re a young establishment, this booming small town in America. Things have changed since the railroad made promises and the first little wooden store took shape on the desolate landscape. Every day time passes and residents make decisions to build, to come, to leave, to stay.
Within those 100 years there have been booms and busts and years spent standing still waiting for and making our own opportunity that might help keep the streets alive with young people and babies again…
Within those 100 years land has been bought and sold and split and kept. Businesses have changed hands, closed doors or stayed right there in the family.
Kids have learned between the walls of schools and out in the streets, riding bikes to the pool or driving their first cars out to help with a branding at a ranch in the badlands.
I am one of those kids. This weekend I was surrounded by them, tapping their toes to the music on the big stage, dancing and laughing, buying each other a beer, swinging around grandchildren, sitting down with a roast beef sandwich and catching up, just like they’ve done for decades.
And isn’t it refreshing to know that no matter how things have changed us, no matter how fast the cars can go now, how we can fly across oceans, no matter that we can see each other on computer screens though we’re thousands of miles apart, still after all of these years there’s nothing like celebrating shoulder to shoulder, embrace to embrace, laughter to terrible joke.
There’s nothing that beats a good old fashioned party together.
Congratulations hometown. Here’s to another 100 years and more!
Coming Home: We call it a century. 100 years. The Centennial
by Jessie Veeder