The Wise County Reunion will be in full swing beginning tomorrow night, but there are still a schedule of events to maintain during the day. Check the Learning Ladder website for camps, the Decatur Library website for storytime specifics on Tuesday (11 and 12:30), and of course the free lunch on Wednesday.
If you’ve never come out to the Wise County Old Settler’s Reunion grounds, take a moment to read the article below–it’s an event worth trying at least once!
When trying to describe Aggieland, there’s an often quoted phrase: “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it; and from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.” While that might be true in College Station, and for that matter, any number of schools, communities, clubs or organizations, it definitely exemplifies the phenomenon of the Wise County Old Settler’s Reunion.
Through the years, I have tried to describe our little “festival” to those “out-of-county” types. I start with the history of the event, how it was founded in 1874 as an official reunion of Civil War Veterans and original Wise County pioneers. I mention that the first year, the Wise County Messenger reported a successful day, with only the music as less than wonderful. I paint a picture of a county picnic, a picnic that grew from one day, to three days, and eventually to a week of camping, conversation, and connection. I emphasize the beginning of Tradition—tradition that has changed and evolved over the past 136 years, but tradition rooted deeply in the soils of these small towns.
I talk about the Midway, the Pavilion, the Queen’s Contest, and the absence of curfew. I talk about the wrist bands, the carnival food, the nightly music, the water balloon fights, the dust, the heat, and the homemade ice cream. I elaborate on the Family Reunions, Class Reunions, and nightly potlucks back at “Camp.” And, it’s when I talk of Camp that I tend to lose people. I see their eyebrows wrinkle, and their smiles fade. Questions start flying. “Did you say cabins?” “Do you have air conditioning?” “What other times of year do people use this vacation property?” “How many people sleep in a cabin?” “You stay up until when??” And again, I describe the cabin village, how it’s not an RV Camp. It’s an actual pseudo-town of screened-in camps built and maintained for use one week of the year—the hottest one at that. These cabins are special. They are unique. They are decorated, judged, and awarded prizes and titles according to excellence in various areas of competion. They are passed down to family members, held dear and precious to those who own them, and shared with those who may not be in the market (yet) for Reunion real estate. In short, I try to define the essence of Reunion to the uninitiated.
They don’t get it. Until or unless, they experience it. Only then, can they appreciate the Wonder of Reunion.
And, they either fall in love, or run away. There is no in-between. No waivering. No “on the fence.” Either they adapt to the new daily schedule of sleeping late, waking for lunch, falling into an afternoon nap, meeting up with friends and family for dinner, riding carnival rides, filling water balloons, having children “check in,” playing dominoes till dawn, and watching (or rather not watching) the time fly with friends. If, on the other hand, they do not adapt to this yearly hiatus from normal daily activity, they are aware of the hours ticking by, the sweat trickling down their neck, the dust sticking to their face, the children staying up way past their bedtime, the water balloons bursting at their feet, and the virtual money pit that is the Carnival.
But, somehow, the good outweighs the bad. For Reunion Veterans, there isn’t any bad. People plan vacation time around Reunion. Weddings have been moved because of Reunion. Newborn babies make appearances at Reunion. Great-Grandmothers brave the heat of Reunion. When I was in high school, I took my broken ribs, broken shoulder blade, and a stitched up body to Reunion. Even car accidents can’t trump Tradition.
And the kids. Just imagine this week through their eyes. It’s the ultimate playground. The rules are different during Reunion, if there are any rules at all. It’s a time to play, to ride, to sing, to throw, and to make memories. It’s a week of sleepovers. Sleepovers OUTSIDE. Sleepovers outside, with a carnival, and NO BEDTIME. It’s a never-ending birthday party. Games are endless, water balloons are plentiful, and the fun is incomparable.
It’s Tradition. It’s History. It’s one of those small-town events that makes every town in Wise county uniquely special, because “…from the outside looking in, you can’t understand it; and from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.” And, frankly, isn’t that the best part? Aggie wisdom—who knew?