Meeksville: a place for new beginnings

Published 11:00 pm Friday, July 6, 2012

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

Psalm 30:5

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For Diane LaFountain, that scripture took on special meaning on the hot, sultry Fourth of July morning. There were tears in her eyes but so much joy in her heart.

“I’ve never been so happy in all my life,” LaFountain said. “No matter how hard you work for something or how much you hope and pray for it, you just never know. Not until it happens.”

While she could not fully shake the sadness of the day, LaFountain found joy in the success of Wednesday’s Fourth of July Parade at Meeksville.

LaFountain was one of the participants in the Fourth of July parade at China Grove 13 years ago. The residents of the small, sleepy community in the far northern reaches of Pike County had decided to celebrate the country’s independence with a neighborhood parade. Kids rode their bicycles decorated with crepe paper streamers and moms and dads carried small American flags and walked along. Maybe 30 people were there, in all.

Folks heard about the parade and wanted to be a part of it. And, in three short years, the China Grove Fourth of July Parade had become a Pike County tradition. More folks came than you could shake a stick at.

But after last year’s parade, some China Grove residents decided that the parade had gotten too big and the liability was too great. An end was called to the small town- America patriotic parade.

“Not everyone in China Grove wanted to end the parade but we had to have the support of the entire community if it was going to go on,” LaFountain said. “It was with heavy hearts that we had to accept that the China Grove Fourth of July Parade would be no more.”

China Grove’s loss was Meeksville’s gain.

The Meeksville Volunteer Fire Department has been a strong supporter of the China Grove parade. Each year, the volunteer fire fighters sold chicken and rib plates as the department’s biggest fund-raiser.

“We didn’t want to see the parade go and we needed the money that we raised,” said Alfred Alloway, Meeksville fire chief. “We talked about it and decided that we could have the parade here at Meeksville. It’s right town the road from China Grove and we’ve got a real nice park. We were excited to bring the parade to Meeksville and Diane agreed to be the chairman. We all worked hard getting ready and getting the word out. We just hoped that people would come.”

As people happily and eagerly lined up for the Meeksville parade Wednesday, few knew that, over in China Grove, an “unofficial” Fourth of July parade was underway.

“The China Grove parade started as a neighborhood parade and on Wednesday it was just that again,” LaFountaine said. “It was a small patriotic parade that ran right through the heart of ‘town.’ We made the turn in the road and continued on to participate in the Meeksville Fourth of July Parade.”

As chair of that parade, LaFountain said neither she nor any of those who worked so hard to make the parade a success knew how things would turn out.

But not a one of them was disappointed.

Alloway said he was excited to see so many people out and enjoying themselves.

“I think that was one of the biggest crowds that we’ve had at the Fourth of July parades,” he said. “People just seem to want to be a part of a community parade. I was excited about the turnout. Really, we were all overwhelmed.”

And, a bit surprised.

“And, what a wonderful surprise,” LaFountaine said. “The Meeksville Fourth of July Parade was a tremendous success. It could not have been better. People came just like they had come to China Grove. Everyone had a great time. I was overjoyed.”

LaFountaine said that, as she looked at the crowds that gathered all along the one mile-plus parade route, she saw America at its best.

“The parade was a slice of Americana,” she said. “It was all about being true to what we believe in. It was about being neighborly. It was about loving your country and your community and being proud and honored to be a part of celebrating all that America stands for. That’s what the China Grove Fourth of July Parade was about for 12 years and that’s what the Meeksville Fourth of July Parade is and will be for years to come.”

LaFountain said her sadness turned to gladness with the realization that with every ending comes a new beginning.

“Oh, we’ll continue to have our neighborhood Fourth of July parade at China Grove,” she said. “Then we’ll go on up the road to Meeksville where there’s a better plan and a better place to celebrate our nation’s independence on the Fourth of July. This year was a wonderful, new beginning.”