We’re halfway through the year’s largest event-driven influx of visitors to Marion County, and so far, so good. Better than good.
Marion’s Central Park and Hillsboro’s Main Street were jammed Saturday with out-of-town shoppers looking for arts and crafts deals from more than 400 vendors who displayed their wares in the two arts festivals. Many shoppers stashed loads of goodies in their cars and returned for more. Food vendors ran out of favored items early on a day in which the weather was as perfect as one could ask for.
A much smaller group of folks from around the state descended upon Marion Country Club for a couples golf tournament Sunday. While 38 couples don’t add up to thousands, they’re just as important in bringing positive visibility to the county.
Friday and Saturday, more than a dozen Marion High School classes will hold reunions, driving attendance at Marion’s Old Settlers’ Day festivities.
These events, and others throughout the year, highlight the importance of dedicated volunteers. Art in the Park, the Arts and Crafts Fair, and Old Settlers’ Day wouldn’t happen without them.
That’s why, as we bask in the success of volunteer-driven events such as these, we note with mild concern that several long-term volunteer leaders are saying good-bye to some or all of their involvement with these events. We’re wondering who will step up to fill some awfully big shoes, particularly where an absence of leadership may jeopardize an event.
Art in the Park has been a fixture in Marion for 37 years. Judy Christensen has been involved in some way in most, if not all of them, supported for 22 years by Margo Yates. Both have said this could be their last festival, and no heir-apparent has come forward to ensure there will be a 38th edition.
Many golfing couples wondered Sunday when next year’s event would be; Lois Smith, longtime organizer of this and other tournaments at Marion Country Club, couldn’t tell them. She said she’s decided it’s time to hand such duties over to someone else. People can play golf anywhere. They come to Marion, and return, because they know Smith’s events are both well-run and great fun. She said perhaps a club committee will take this on.
Cynthia Fleming has announced her retirement as president of Hillsboro State Bank, and it’s difficult to find an important initiative happening in Hillsboro for which she doesn’t volunteer in some capacity. The Arts and Crafts Fair is in no danger, as Penni Schroeder provides expert leadership to the group that stages it. Fleming isn’t sure yet just how her volunteer activities will change, but the current Chamber of Commerce president won’t likely be taking on anything new, and will certainly reduce her volunteer load to devote more time to more leisurely pursuits.
Small towns depend more on volunteers for special events and projects than do larger cities, and are more likely to have challenges finding replacements for the good ones, particularly those who’ve taken the reins of leadership.
So, as we near the end of another year of high-quality, volunteer-driven events that enhance the economic stability and quality of life in our county, it’s time to ask: Who is going to step up? Who is going to say to themselves that they’re not willing to let any of the things these and others do slip or disappear? We need answers soon. These things don’t happen overnight.
There’s a lot of work involved, with little reward other than the satisfaction of seeing people and communities uplifted by one’s efforts. That’s been enough for people such as those mentioned above to devote significant amounts of time and effort to volunteerism. Hopefully it’s enough for some others to take the lead.
— david colburn