I’ve said for years that the entertainment industry needs to bring the unique experience of our very own Wise County Reunion to the big screen.
Where else in the world does a town practically shut down during the hottest week of the summer to spend every hour of the night wandering through a makeshift neighborhood behind the lights of a traveling carnival?
Granted, we love it. We love the homemade ice cream, carnival bracelets, water balloon wars, domino games, late night conversations and every single cabin tradition. It’s our unique flavor of Smalltown Texas, and this year we shared our flavor with a pretty big crowd.
On July 22, the Decatur Chamber of Commerce hosted the “Put Yo Money Where Yo Mouth Is” Washer Tournament to set a Guinness world record. What began as a tradition a few years ago turned into a Decatur tourist attraction, with teams traveling from Florida, Canada and all over Texas to enter and be a part of Reunion and Guinness history.
Not to be left out, I entered my boys in the tournament, ages 11 and 8. After thoroughly explaining that there would still be plenty of time for carnival rides and water balloons, they hesitantly agreed. We had a few afternoon lessons throughout July explaining the rules, calculating scores and perfecting that oh-so-tricky toss to the board, but I could still sense they weren’t really comprehending what they signed up for until the all call Tuesday night for the group picture.
I watched as they both took in the tournament surroundings sign by sign, board by board. Their eyes were huge as they realized they could be paired with GROWN-UPS, or worse, COLLEGE boys. They raced back to the camp to cram in a few more practice rounds hoping their skills would sharpen in seconds. When their team names were called, as luck would have it, they were paired with older, cooler guys but managed to keep their cool and play the game.
In fact, they didn’t seem the least bit intimidated. They corrected scoring, made small talk, joked and frankly, looked like they were at a party chatting with some of their new favorite friends. I was amazed and honestly, a little proud.
To their credit, the kids’ opponents were nothing but respectful, helpful and encouraging to my boys. If I could, I would have given their moms a quiet high five for manners well taught.
Sadly, both my boys lost in their first round, but they were happy just to be part of the process. And the carnival rides and water balloons were a great consolation prize.
Storytelling is one of the most important ingredients of the Reunion experience. Phrases like “remember when” and “that was so long ago” drift through the carnival air and throughout the cabin neighborhood giving the entire week just the right amount of bittersweet.
Everyone has a story to tell, and this year, we added one more. I can just hear my boys telling their college buds one day how they entered and competed in the largest washer tournament in Guinness history. Their friends will ask for details, and it will start with … “It happened at Reunion …”
Scroggins is a Decatur resident, Decatur High School graduate, teacher and mother of three. Life is Kids Stuff is a monthly column about kids, family and life in general.