OPINION

The Flatlander

Sesquicentennial: We Get One Shot At Doing This Right

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“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” -Proverbs 29:8

For the most part, we are a culture of do-overs and second chances until we get whatever it is we’re doing right. But a few things give us just one good shot.
Such is the case with the Stone County Sesquicentennial Celebration. (It really doesn’t have a name yet, but you have to call it something.)

Recently, a group of a dozen volunteers gathered and discussed what celebrating Stone County might look like, and more importantly, what it might mean.
It’s easy imagining gospel singings, and parades, declarations about this day or that. The bigger questions before digging into the details are this:

• When we look back on this 20 years from now, what did we do that mattered?
• What will be different about Stone County after the celebration than before?
• What greater good might we work toward as a part of all this, that makes a difference in someone’s life?

All these things -- celebratory days, picnics, special songs, or videos or newspaper articles -- they should all point toward something bigger and more meaningful than a special date on a calendar.

We get one shot at celebrating a 150-year anniversary. We should make the most of it.

It’s also worth mentioning other significant anniversaries in 2023. The Stone County courthouse will mark 100 years; and Blanchard Spring Caverns and the Ozark Folk Center celebrate 50 years.

So, all history aside, here’s what we should ask ourselves and one way we might think about it.

If someone offered you $1 million today, and stipulated that you give it to some local charitable cause that may or may not yet exist, where would you send it? More simply asked, in terms of actually helping people, or certain causes, what are the greatest needs we have in Stone County?

•Is it rural hunger?
•Some health care need?
•Tourism related?
•Could we fund some annual program to help local entrepreneurs?
•The environment?
•Heritage or cultural preservation?
•Education/scholarship/trade?

The possibilities are endless, and it’s time to wrap our collective minds around this. If our citizenry raised $25,000 or $50,000 or $100,000, how would those proceeds best be spent? Who might offer a lead gift that would get that process started? How is such a campaign organized? What is the actual definition of success?

There is so much to consider. And the clock is running.

There are three places to look when an opportunity like this presents itself. We may look to the past, the present, and the future.

I’m going to go out on a limb here, and possibly hang myself out to dry. While the plan may involve all three, I’m leaning heavily toward investing in our future.

No question that we have a cultural heritage about as rich as any place on the planet. Hearing a simple three-chord song on the dulcimer evokes the feelings and emotions of that amazing legacy. Music, great stories, long-time annual events, all are the first few digits in the sum of who we are.

At present, we’re still focused on a strong infrastructure for our citizenry. Roads, jails, fiber optic internet transmission, growing health care economies. We know the things we need. It’s just not easy getting them all in place at the same moment.

But there really couldn’t be a better moment to ponder where Stone County goes from here. We know where we are, and where we have been. But where are we going? What are we to become?

Meeting participants discussed things like documentaries, monuments, health care projects, church gatherings, 5k races, and more.

But the celebration doesn’t belong to any one group and everyone needs to be involved in the planning process. More meetings will come, so watch for those. This is your opportunity to be involved early in the process.

So, the question is, what is your vision for a Stone County Sesquicentennial?

And furthermore, what role might you play in the effort to celebrate 150 years?
There is one way you can help for sure. There is one thing above and beyond all else that connects us as a community. It’ s not the county government, not some religious meeting, not even casual meetings in the Walmart checkout line. The thing that most connects us all is story.

As the sesquicentennial plays out, it should evolve as a series of stories about the past, present and future. We should honor the stories that record our past. Appreciate the stories that define our future. And dream about the people places and things that we believe point to our brightest future.

Do you have a story or an idea to share? Write me at steve@stonecountyleader.com and make your mark on this milestone moment now.

(Steve Watkins is a reporter/columnist for the Stone County Leader.)

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