By CHRISTINA RITCHIE ROGERS
For folks in the Smithville neighborhood, a community festival is more like a family reunion – everybody knows everybody, and there’s a good chance their cousins, kids, nieces, uncles or in-laws are nearby. And dozens of neighborhood “family members” turned out Saturday at the Smithville Community Center, on South Hill Street, to enjoy food, music, fellowship and great weather at the Smithville Community Festival.
From where she stood at the festival, Eudean Knox, a Smithville native, pointed out the homes of two of her daughters and said her cousin’s house was just around the corner. And that is not unusual for the community. Many of the residents have lived there since birth, along with their relatives.
But in Smithville, you don’t need to be related to be treated like family.
“If I make a big dinner, I’ll think about the lady down the street, and the lady around the corner, and the man outside who needs some food,” Ms. Knox said.
And like so many others at the festival, she grew up going to the community center, which used to be run by a group of 25 men from the neighborhood, she said. Her father, Ozon Brice, organized the social events and activities for the children.
“I wasn’t his only daughter,” Ms. Knox said. “Every child in the center was his daughter or his son. That’s how he treated them.”
The Community Center used to be “the core of the community,” resident Lisa Mayhew said. She, like so many others at the center Saturday, remembers spending time there as a child. But many of the people who ran the center and planned its events have grown old, she said, and some have passed away. And the next generation needs to step in to keep it going, she said.
Ms. Mayhew is the co-chair of the Smithville Community Coalition, a group formed a few months ago with the mission to revitalize the neighborhood and the community center and to foster a sense of community in the town’s oldest neighborhood.
The coalition would like to see the community center get new life, and become a part of the community like the Ada Jenkins Center is in Davidson, she said.
Now is a particularly important time for the community to come together, Ms. Mayhew said Friday, as there are a lot of changes on the horizon for the town. Infrastructure changes like the Diverging Diamond Interchange, planned to begin next year, could have a significant impact the Smithville community, as the town may open up roads in the neighborhood near the intersection of Catawba and U.S. 21.
“That wave of changes coming through could easily just wash out Smithville,” Ms. Mayhew said, “or we can ride that wave and get people to take notice.”
Click on the first photo below to view as a slideshow. Photos by Christina Ritchie Rogers.
Nov. 11, 2011: “Enjoy food, fellowship at Smithville’s Fall Festival Sat.”