Girl on Fire: Why celebrations are good for local communities

[As seen in Creston News Advertiser October 2, 2014]

During the last weekend in September, Centerville hosts a local festival called Pancake Day. It’s similar to Creston’s Balloon Days in that there’s a parade and it focuses on one unique thing. In Centerville’s case, that unique thing is pancakes.

Pancake Day was started in 1949, and since then has grown into something truly spectacular.

Friday night the Centerville square plays host to a band. This year, and in previous years, the band was Standing Hampton, a talented cover band from Des Moines. The band played around a beer garden starting at 8:30 p.m., and the place was packed from the get-go.

Saturday morning my parents, sister and I drove to the square and ate pancakes! The pancake mix, syrup, butter and other gourmet foods were donated by Hy-Vee and served by many volunteers from local businesses and organizations.

I had the opportunity to wait in line with my family and see a former teacher of mine, Susan McDanel. She taught my high school history and government classes my junior and senior years, and we were able to catch up for those 10 minutes waiting for pancakes.

Then, my mom Karen somehow wrangled my sister and I into volunteering to help with her Pancake Day parade float. She is an Appanoose County Trails board member, and the float was outdoor-themed, complete with snowmobile and kayak.

Pancake Day, Balloon Days and all the other weekend festivals towns across the country put on are so important because they bring in money, people and spirit.

A lot of money is spent on a weekend celebration, but the amount of money that comes back to the community more than makes up for it. When people visit, they spend money on hotel rooms, food, gas and souvenirs. People want to spend money to make their stay enjoyable, and many do that during celebrations.

There is also a rise in tourism. People from out of town, some even from out of state, will visit just to witness the fun and happiness during a festival like Balloon Days. It’s great seeing that many people enjoy something local Crestonians have made a tradition.

Spirit. This, I think, is the most important factor. When a community gets together for one common thing, the people are happy. They are motivated. They want to be there to celebrate their togetherness. That’s what these celebrations are all about: celebrating togetherness.

Pancake Day and Balloon Days are no exception. People park along the streets for miles just to walk up to the square or main street, park themselves in a chair and watch the floats drift by during the parades. They wander up and down the area buying kettle corn from Creston Fire Department, or coffee and sweets from Adams Street Espresso and Upper Crust. Not to mention the many little stalls stationed down the streets. People are supportive of their community, and that’s what makes these celebrations worth it.

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