To the point week of 8-25-11

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EACH YEAR THE SWISS Wine Festival fills me with many memories – not only of my 27 years of living in this community; but also brings back memories from my childhood.

As a kid, my family were regular campers at Versailles State Park. We would spend nearly every weekend in the park during the summer; and we got to know many other “regulars” there.

We would take drives on some weekends, driving down to Vevay and taking the ferry across the Ohio River, then driving up the Kentucky side to Aurora and come back across, then back up highway 50 to the State Park.

We spent so much time there, in fact, that there is a painting of the covered bridge that leads into the state park hanging over the fireplace at my parent’s home.

But one weekend in particular that always caught my attention is when we would come down and camp and then drive down to Vevay for the Swiss Wine Festival.

Back then it was in town – the entire town.

You’ve heard the stories – and many of you lived those stories; but to a early-teen kid from East Central Indiana, it was huge.

I remember being directed into the parking lot of Switzerland County High School, where we parked our car and then rode into town on school buses.

I don’t remember too much about the town, because it was so filled with people that a little guy like me couldn’t see too much of the landscape or architecture.

Many times you will hear people say “It was a different time back then…”

Well, it was.

It was crowded and just almost out of control; and I thought it was wonderful. My parents handed my brother, Mike, and me some money, and off we went into the crowd to play games and ride on the rides (I told you it was a different time. Who’d let their kids walk around like that today?)

I remember walking around and looking at all of the booths and trying to decide where to spend my money. One year I decided on a game where you pitched washers (small, round metal disks with holes in them; not Kenmores and Maytags) at a variety of glassware located on a table. Land your washer on a plate or in a glass, and you got to take it home.

Mike and I carried a restaurant-load of glassware home that day. I’m not sure where it all is today, but my guess is that it’s in my parent’s attic.

Wherever it is, we sure had fun winning it all.

We walked around and eventually made our way over around Ferry and Market streets. Long before the Ogle Park was there, this one particular year there were large groups of motorcycles encamped along the river, so we headed back into the main part of town for more fun.

As I look back today, I often wonder where I was standing and whom I was standing by during those weekends. I wish I remembered where this booth was or where that ride was. Now that I live here, it would be fun to retrace my steps from days gone by.

There were also children with whom I shared a seat on a particular ride. Unknown to me then, I wonder if I know them now as adults – except now they’d be putting their grandchildren on the rides.

So today (Thursday), as all of the hoopla of the 40th Swiss Wine Festival gets underway, I’d like you to do a couple of things for me.

First, at some point track down Kirk Works or another member of the organizing committee and thank them for all of the work that they do so that we can enjoy this festival.

As someone who is involved in planning other events, I know too well that it’s really easy to find people when you want to complain about something, but when things go right, no one seems to care.

Find someone and tell them that things went right.

Secondly, make sure that you enjoy the festival for it’s intent.

Yes, there’s lots of food and fun and entertainment; but the primary reason that everyone gathers along the river each year is to meet old friends and find new ones and come together as a community.

I’m not in the beer garden on Saturday night (or any other night), but it seems to be the “place to be” to catch up with friends that you haven’t seen since last year’s festival.

You’ll also see people catching up on park benches and at picnic tables; sitting and listening to the music – or putting their grandchildren on an amusement ride.

For me, I will have memories of Bill and Marilyn Reagan coming down from their home near New Castle, Indiana.

They have friends here in Switzerland County; but I know them because Bill and my dad were friends and co-workers once upon a time.

Bill is an avid race fan, and I’ve spent many years sitting along side him at the Hoosier Hundred dirt track race.

Several years ago I was walking through the food court area and there sat Bill and Marilyn. Out of thousands of people, even I found someone that I knew.

I don’t know if they’ll make it down this year; I haven’t seen them for a year or so; but if they do I’m sure I’ll see them - and I know I’ll hear Bill; because his big “Hey Patrick!” will ring throughout the festival grounds.

That’s what makes this so special. That’s what makes this unique.

We’ll have family in for the festival. My wife’s brother and his family will be here from Nashville, Tennessee; her cousin and his family from Muncie; and her aunt and kids from Southern Kentucky.

I may even have a few family members wander through – you never know who I might find.

You’ll find someone, too. Just go down and walk around and grab a lemon shake-up and listen to a band and enjoy the day. You’ll be amazed at all of the people you know who have chosen to do the very same thing.

After all, there’s a kid out there somewhere looking to throw some washers at some dishes.

*

As much as we all anticipate Wine Festival weekend, it is also a bittersweet time for some parents around the county.

This is also the time when we pack up our kids and send them off to college. Some have already been on campus for a week or so, and many come back for the festival; but others are moving in this weekend.

For Jacquita and me, this is a totally new experience, because this is the first time we’ve moved two daughters to college.

Emily will leave Sunday afternoon and drive to Western Kentucky University to begin her junior year. She’s well versed in the drive after two years; and she’s already made a preliminary trip to move things into her shared house, so Sunday is a matter of just “going back.”

But tomorrow (Friday), we will take youngest daughter, Hilary, north to Huntington University, near Fort Wayne.

It’s quite a drive; so it’s going to be a long day; but we’ll start early in the morning and make the 185 trek; unload her and get her settled; then stay for a special church service that the university holds for parents and freshmen.

Then we’ll drive back home.

Everyone talks about us being “empty nesters”, but with all of the traffic in and out of our house, we will hardly have time for that; but it will be different.

There’s something about your “baby” leaving home. Something that rises from your stomach and sticks in your throat. You try hard to force it back down; but it makes your eyes water and emotions churn.

As much as I hate the thought of my kids “moving on” with their lives, I also remember being 18 and having my whole life in front of me and not being able to wait to go out and conquer the world. I wouldn’t take that feeling away from my kids for anything.

Hilary is a special case because there’s also a deep sense of pride that she will be studying music ministry and worship leadership at Huntington. Her dream is to lead worship in a big church one day (ok, it’s actually to become a famous Christian recording artist; but there needs to be a back up plan). She’s been leading worship at our church at Olive Branch for the past two years; and as she leaves, there’s going to be a big hole left in our services, too.

But her stuff is packed in boxes and she’s communicating with her new roommate and other new friends and she’s excited to see what the coming weeks and months bring.

And so are we.