Something about the Maxwell Old Settlers Picnic (celebration) always takes me back to my teenage years in Wyoming, Iowa. Like Maxwell, Wyoming was (and still is) a town that is longer than it is wide and has a true small-town population of under 1,000. Like Maxwell, Wyoming is home to a high school that sits in the center of the long town, and has a Casey’s store located along the main highway.
Also like Wyoming, Maxwell puts on a once-a-year celebration toward the end of summer, where folks from all over the area come to enjoy events, socialize and eat.
When my son, Drew, and I paid a visit to the Maxwell celebration Saturday afternoon, we found the park full of people enjoying a variety of activities and attractions.
The ball field in the center of the park was busy with a softball game and teams like the Royals – last year’s defending champions (who won again this year I found out Monday!) – were watching from under the shade trees that are abundant in the park. I snapped a picture of some of that team’s members: Lance Livesay, Brooke Stewart and Kenny Randolph. Just like I remember from my hometown, slow-pitch softball is always a big draw and a good time.
Next, I caught De Keehn working at the grill of Owen Family Concessions Etc., owned by Todd Owen. Todd said he brought his food business to Maxwell this year because his brother, Calvin, lives in Maxwell. Todd, who lives at Leland and works fulltime for Winnebago in the company’s computer area, does about 12-15 celebrations with his business each year. He gets help from his family. The business specializes in all kinds of smoked meat sandwiches and snacks, and they were doing a good business on Saturday, with people lining up to satisfy their appetites. Todd, who grew up in Lytton, said he’s all about small towns.
Leanne Otting is another business person who enjoys the small-town atmosphere. Otting, the owner of Air Brush Body Creations, was busy putting an interesting cat design on the arm of Ellie McDonough of Maxwell. Otting, of West Des Moines, said she goes to a lot of small-town celebrations, where she finds her most popular requests are for butterflies, paw prints, hearts and lightning bolts. This was her fourth or fifth year coming to Maxwell.
Next to Otting’s stand were tables filled with mouth-watering treats, all being sold by the Collins-Maxwell High School Dance Team to raise funds for the coming school year. The girls said they raised $500 at Collins Days earlier in the summer, and were hoping to do as well during the Maxwell celebration. Oreo balls and Scotch-a-roos have been their most popular selling items, they said. Small-town celebrations are a great place for teens to raise money and hang out with friends … I did a lot of it in my day!
Many of our small-town celebrations are finding it harder and harder to hang on, as people become busier with their lives and have less time to volunteer with these undertakings. I applaud the people in all of the communities that we cover who have put forth the effort to make a small-town celebration – no matter how big or small it is – come to life.
(Marlys Barker is editor of the Nevada Journal and the Tri-County Times.)