By CHRISTINA RITCHIE ROGERS
More than 200 turned out to ‘Celebrate Smithville’ at Cornelius Town Hall Saturday. The Smithville Community Coalition partnered with the Cornelius PARC department to host the event as a way to raise awareness of the community and the coalition’s efforts to revitalize it.
For many of the Smithville residents, the event was a trip down memory lane, as different performers, readers, authors and artists shared stories of growing up in one of Cornelius’ oldest neighborhoods. And for residents of other Cornelius neighborhoods, the celebration was a chance to learn some town history, enjoy great music and art and meet new people.
Smithville residents Lisa Mayhew and Sammie Knox last year formed the Smithville Community Coalition, aiming to revitalize the neighborhood and its community center. The coalition has been meeting regularly for the last few months, looking for ways to bring Smithville residents together and involve them in projects and neighborhood events. In November, it hosted its first community event, a fall festival, at the community center.
The community center, on South Hill Street, was once a hub of activity in the neighborhood, but over the years has fallen into disrepair. As part of its revitalization efforts, the coalition would like to repurpose the building and make it a center used by all Cornelius residents, similar to Davidson’s Ada Jenkins Center, Ms. Mayhew said.
Founded in 1910, Smithville has roots dating back to the 1880s. Many of the older residents share fond memories of growing up in Smithville, where everyone was treated like family and children were reared not only by their immediate family members but also by their Smithville neighbors.
Artist and author James Donaldson, who grew up in Smithville, on Saturday read excerpts from a manuscript he is working on – each one a childhood memory. Those memories also are reflected in his artwork, that was on display at the event.
“I am so proud to be a product of Smithville,” Mr. Donaldson said. “I often ask, why am I not a drug dealer? Why am I not doing these things? It’s because of Smithville.”
In addition to Mr. Donaldson’s work, artists James Wesley Caldwell and Chad Cartwright displayed their work at Town Hall during the event, and authors DeAnne Hall and Lucy Withers read samples of their writing. Also, singers from Gethsemane Baptist, Union Bethel and Torrence Chapel AME Zion churches performed, as did the Caldwell Sistersand liturgical dancers from Union Bethel, as audience members clapped, danced and sang along to the songs they grew up listening to.
Nov. 14, 2011: “Smithville’s Fall Festival a ‘family’ event”
Nov. 11, 2011: “Enjoy food, fellowship at Smithville’s fall festival Sat.”