For the past four years, in the days leading up to the Saturday before Memorial Day, I start to spaz out, get short-tempered, and drive friends, family and co-workers nuts by worrying.
Actually, I'm like that all the time, but it just gets worse before the Red, White and Blue Veterans Celebration. It's such a big project, and so many people are involved, that inevitably there will be some detail that gets missed. As co-chairman of the event, I can't help but feel responsible.
Yet when the day arrives, everything just falls together. A horde of volunteers shows up on time. The predicted thunderstorms -- diverted no doubt by God, who enjoys peaceful fireworks -- pass by with only an early-morning cooling shower. Participants, dignitaries, guests and spectators drift in, filling one end of Doctors Hospital field as performers warm up and the start time draws closer.
Then it all happens, and before we know it the last skyrocket has faded and the celebration is over. And I try to remember what all the worry was about.
There is no way to fully express my pride in this community, and my appreciation to all the participants who help make the Red, White and Blue Veterans Celebration a reality. Working with former County Commission Chairman Jim Whitehead, we've put together a program that every year brings new surprises and another well-earned yet too-seldom heard recognition for those who serve our country.
At a neighborhood cookout this weekend, I was fortunate to meet Tommy Lyles, the chairman of Columbia County's new artist guild. He said one thing the county lacks is the sort of community identity that comes from displays of public art, such as outdoor sculptures.
Such things are tangible symbols of a community. We also need to work on establishing the intangibles, through such events as the celebration each Memorial Day weekend and our Christmas tree lighting. These events are all about fostering a sense of civic pride and molding neighbors into neighborhoods.
They're all about having fun, too -- a good way to keep from spazzing out.
Regarding this year's Red, White and Blue Veterans Celebration, a few thank-you notes are in order:
First, to Jim Whitehead, for coming up with the idea five years ago and seeing it through to execution. He did it all this year while running in a tough political race, and kept politics out of it (even though workers for his opponent, and other candidates, took full advantage of the crowds at the veterans ceremony Saturday by passing out campaign literature).
Then, to all the volunteers and supporters of the event: There are too many to single out, but the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, the Martinez Fire Department and the county's Recreation Department deserve special thanks for helping set up the event and making sure people could get in and out safely.
Finally, hats off to two participants: U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, an Evans resident who has addressed the Memorial Day weekend event every year, and Brig. Gen. Janet Hicks, who not only delivers a rousing speech but selflessly participates in ceremonial duties wherever asked. Congratula-tions to Gen. Hicks as she pins on a second star today with her promotion to major general.
Columbia County really is the greatest place in the world to live, which I can say in blissful ignorance because I've never lived anywhere else. And as long as we keep having celebrations like this year's Red, White and Blue Veterans Celebration, life in our community will only get better.
Just ignore me if I spaz out now and then.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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