When Bridget Martin was a little girl, she remembered watching the Old Settlers parade down Jefferson Street. She loved the floats. She loved the vehicles. She loved getting candy.
Now at 32 years old and a mother of two, the Prairie City native was glad she was able to pass down this love she has for the town celebration to her children.
“I don’t think I missed one,” Martin said. “You just remember the bicycle races, the kid races. Obviously at age 32, if it’s something that I remember, it will be something they remember too.”
Last weekend, Prairie City hosted its 125th community celebration at Garden Square Park. With the theme, “Scoopin’ the Loop”, this year’s festivities focused on celebrating the history of the town while creating everlasting memories for the future generations.
“We wanted to bring back really scoopin’ the loop,” mayor Chad Alleger said. “I’m from Pennsylvania, and I had no idea what scoopin’ the loop was. I didn’t realize all it was was driving around the square.”
The Prairie Days celebration, which began in 1892, brought back several traditions of the annual festivities, from the kids races to the Prairie Days’ ribbon presentation. Through this, many residents were able to relive their memories celebrating previous Old Settlers festivals and pass down the excitement that has been maintained for more than 100 years.
“It is recognition for when we were young. They did the water fight over by the post office. We were like, ‘Yes we remember that.’ Maybe it takes us back to that time,” Eileen Mercuris, who has lived in the area since 1975, said. “This is a way to bring us together.”
Although many of the activities were from years past, the kids in attendance said they still had the time of their lives.
“We are going to do the water fights. We are going to play in the water,” Martin’s 2-year-old daughter Mazie said Friday. “I want (a snow cone). I am going to get a yellow one.”
During the town celebration, the kids rolled in giant, inflatable hamster balls, shot each other with lasers for a good round of laser tag, got soaked by the Prairie City Fire Department, got splashed with orange powder at the Color Craze and enjoyed a variety of tasty treats, from watermelon from the Robert Bros. Watermelon Feed to the pork tenderloin from the Prairie City Lions Club.
“I can’t just pick one (activity). It is pretty much the entire weekend. It is Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We had two different bands performing – we had SlipStream Friday and Decoy playing Saturday. We have activities throughout the entire weekend,” Alleger said. “I am here bright and early and here till it closes. It ends perfectly with the Sunday service with the entire community coming together to praise God. It is just one community service.”
The Prairie Days festivities held a special presentation Saturday to remember the history of Prairie City and the annual town celebration. Residents shared various memories and stories from the three-day celebration over the years.
“Everything is changing so much in America, and this is one thing that is a solid rock. It is something that you can look forward to. It brings back tradition, but we are also brought back to the steadfast rock,” Mercuris said. “They kept it here at the same place. We gathered here in the square. It wasn’t moved to a different part of town... They changed the name though. I still think of it as the Prairie City Old Settlers.”
This year, Prairie City Park Board was named Organization of the Year. Christy Lindsay was recognized as the Citizen of the Year. Dr. Greg Ingle received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“I think there was a time where numbers were starting to go down, but I think now, it is on the rise again. To me that is really important for just the health of our community,” Martin said. “Being this close to Des Moines, sometimes you get people who don’t really know a lot about the community. This is a good way to get to know and meet people that are living in the community you are in.”
Contact Anthony Victor Reyes at firstname.lastname@example.org