If you had asked me fifteen years ago if I would ever live in a small town with a population of under 1,000 people I would have laughed in your face. Today, though, I am doing just that and loving it.
It's great for a number of reasons. Sure, small towns can come off as sort of cliquey but after many years you eventually are recognized as one of the townspeople. My neighbors are all pretty great. Sure, they do typical neighbor stuff but that's going to happen everywhere. Kids are actually seen outdoors -- it's not because we lack any of the modern conveniences of those in larger cities. We have HDTV, computers, fast internet access, video game systems and all of those other entertainment options you'd expect to find most anywhere. But the kids go outside because they can.. They play in backyards, they play on sidewalks, they use the city's parks and they generally have fun. Sure, just like anywhere else they watch too many cartoons and don't want to go to bed but that's what kids do.
Then there are the town celebrations. My particular community knows how to put on a celebration. This past weekend was the annual summer celebration and, wow, it was amazing. Parades (yes, more than one), food, fun things to keep kids entertained and a real sense of community. Late last week one of my neighbors pulled up on the sidewalk in his car and asked if I'd be able to help out at the community-run food and beer stand. So for the second year running I eagerly said yes and cooked hundreds of bratwursts over the course of about three hours.
Small towns, though, are weird and to me that is their greatest strength. They have weird festivities, sometimes weird citizens and weird traditions. The former police chief could sometimes be found bagging groceries at the grocery store because what better way is there to know the city than to hang out at the grocery store? Going back to the weird side, though, is what pulls me in every time. THe weekend festivities include a Saturday evening parade which is rather beer-fueled and the impromptu and amateur parade units are nothing short of awesome. The creativity of the community really stands out and it's a chance to see a guy in a bathtub (full of soapy water) being pulled down the streets by a lawn mower. It's a chance to see the city's newly-crowned royalty dressed like young kids as they do their best to ride trikes and bikes borrowed from their much younger siblings. It's a chance to have some serious fun for the low, low price of ZERO DOLLARS!
I can say with certainty that I wound down the weekend with a house full of tired people. We had walked dozens of miles to attend as many events as possible. We had seen far too much sun. I had a lot of dirty clothes as grilling hundreds of bratwursts is a greasy (but still fun) task. In the end, though, it's a chance to show off the small town I call home to literally thousands of outside visitors. The bands who played were a huge draw and tourism of this variety does so much good for the city that it's hard to imagine what would happen without the throngs of people who come to see the bands, the parades and the weirdness that makes me so happy about where I live.