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The Flatlander

Stone County's sesquicentennial year approaches

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Happy upcoming birthday, Stone County. You don’t look a day past 140!

April 21 begins Stone County's sesquicentennial year, and residents are planning a yearlong celebration here in Stone County in 2023.  We’ll recognize Stone County’s sesquicentennial – 150 years of progress, culture, tradition – and most of all, people.

We’re all invited to the party. Everyone’s a VIP.

How exactly do you celebrate such a milestone birthday for an entity that gives people a place they can call home? The possibilities are virtually endless, and all those possibilities are what we need to begin sorting through.

And fast.

Just to get the creative juices flowing, here are 10 random, but interesting Stone County facts:

•From the time of its incorporation, Stone County’s biggest decade of population growth came in the decade of the 70s when the population grew by 2,184 residents. The second biggest decade was nearly a century earlier when the population increased by 1,954 citizens in the 1880s.

•At number 74, Stone is the next to last of the state’s counties to be incorporated.

•A fierce legal fight between opposing parties resulted in several “wet” and several “dry” townships in the country from 1969-70.

•Population estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau showed Stone County with a veterans population of 1,040 in 2021.

•The Stone County Leader was established as a weekly newspaper in 1952. Other newspapers in the county’s history include the Stone County Democrat and the Mountain View Herald.

•The county is home to Blanchard Springs Caverns, believed as the second largest underground cavern system in the world, second to Carlsbad Caverns.

•Lynn McSpadden, founder of McSpadden dulcimers, built his first instrument to play at a folk music revival at Duke University in 1962.

•County Judge Stacey Avey spent much of his first week in office delivering medicine to area residents who couldn’t get away from their homes because of a major ice storm in January, 2001.

•Turkey Creek, Locust Grove, and Roasting Ear are all townships in Stone County.

•Three scenic byways pass through Stone County including Sylamore, Arkansas, and National Scenic.

What do we need? We need these things:

First, we need people.

We need people from every demographic, socio-economic status, culture, age, and interest group to think about this and consider getting involved.

It is after all a celebration for people, about people, and by people. The truth is we have a long history of our volunteer leadership in the life decades of their sixties and older.

We need additional new generations that will bring energy and fresh ideas to the celebration, not to mention ideas about how all these activities might pave a way for the future.

Secondly, we need commitment, and a vision.

This is not the kind of event that comes about successfully as the result of the magic fairy. This is actually a big deal, y’all. It’s not just a celebration for celebration’s sake.

It’s an amazing opportunity to highlight a unique legacy that exists nowhere else on planet earth, but moreover it’s a time when we might create a pillar – some milestone moment in time when new ideas are born and a new way forward is established.

A sesquicennnial event can propel new ideas forward. Here’s a question along those lines: What should the Stone County of 2042 look like? And what can we do now to prepare for that?

We need people, who for a year of their lives, are willing and, moreover, enthusiastic about making this celebration a priority.

Finally, we need specific ideas.

The best sesquicentennial we can image is one that emanates from the grassroots. It’s not the kind of meeting you attend and depend on the same old two or three people in the room to come up with the ideas, figure out a plan for execution, buy the plastic forks and paper plates, and clean up afterward.

A few things to consider along these lines:

•What families and notable individuals made the biggest differences for Stone County over 150 years?

•What were the historical turning points in our history?

•What events/circumstances/problems did we overcome as a rural community?

•In what economic areas is Stone County’s future most likely best invested?

•How do we marry the past with the future?

•What separates us from other places?

A Sesquicentennial Planning Committee has met a few times led by volunteer leadership who recognize the significance of the moment. The group would love your help in this moment when we can all share a vision.

Most of us won't be around for the county’s bicentennial event. Let’s set the bar high for that next planning committee.

See you in next week’s newspaper.

(Steve Watkins is a writer/columnist for the Stone County Leader. Write him at steve@stonecountyleader.com).

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