July 2006
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Co-op Assists Depot Days in Stevenson

by Grace Smith

  Some of the employees of Jackson Farmers Cooperative in Stevenson built a float for the Depot Days’ parade. The float displayed a horse show theme and employees and their families enjoyed throwing candy out for the kids.
Jackson Farmers Cooperative store in Stevenson participated in the town’s Depot Days celebration held June 7-11, 2006.

Stevenson is a historic town situated in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The Depot Days celebration began 25 years ago shortly after the vacancy of the town’s train depot. Loretta Barbee, the event planner and director of Stevenson’s museum, said freight service to the town ended in the late 70s. In 1981, the train depot was to be torn down, but a group of concerned citizens rescued the 134-year-old building from demolition. Thus, the celebration began based upon the preservation of the historic depot.

The Co-op in Stevenson remained opened for normal business hours during the week’s festivities. However, it did close its doors long enough to participate in the parade held Saturday at 10 a.m. Store employees even built a float that was driven in the parade. The float spotlighted Horizon Horse Feed by displaying a horse show theme. Pat Rorex, Co-op store manager, said the float advertised the store with large Co-op signs. The float featured a concession stand and a show ring where store employees sat around on wheat straw bales during the parade.

Don Jones, the parade’s coordinator, said there were 15 floats, 25 show cars and 20 antique tractors in the parade this year. He said one focal point of the parade was a mule drawn buggy carrying Uncle Sam and his wife. He also said there were horseback and 4-wheeler riders at the parade’s conclusion.

"This was one of the biggest parades we’ve had in years, and the community really helped out with it," Jones said.

The 134-year-old train depot, resting in downtown Stevenson, has been transformed into a museum that welcomes guests with a historic glance into the town’s early years.  
The parade was not the only event the store participated in.

"Each business also donates items for the auction," Rorex said. "This year we made hummingbird gift baskets to donate."

The parade and auction were just two events of the five-day celebration. Barbee said the pinnacle of the week was a fundraiser breakfast provided by the high school band held at a log cabin just outside of town.

"The Pioneers Breakfast is the highlight of the Depot Days," Barbee said. "It is sponsored by the North Jackson High School Band and features a bluegrass band with an old country style breakfast."

Events were held in both the downtown area and the city park.

Downtown events included a gospel singing performance on Wednesday, an ice cream social and bingo competition on Thursday, a stew cook-off on Friday and lawnmower races on Sunday. Several downtown events were showcased on Saturday including the parade, an Ugly Women Contest, several music performances and a street dance that evening. Many of the events were held on an old railroad flatcar that was transformed into a stage and highlighted the train depot in the background.

One of the most unusual events held during Depot Days was the Ugly Woman contest. This was a contest where men dressed as women to raise money for the town.

"The mayor put it best when he said this competition is just a bunch of men getting dressed up like women to pay the bills for the week’s events," Barbee said.

  The farm room is one of several rooms inside the historic train depot bearing artifacts from the town's history.
She said there was a great turnout for the event and a great deal of money was raised. She also mentioned the town’s mayor was the winner of the amusing show.

Vendors like the North Jackson Color Guard, Veterans of Foreign War and the Stevenson Police Department lined the downtown streets. These vendors sold food items like funnel cakes, pizza, barbecue, hotdogs and turkey drumsticks. Other vendors hosted games and amusements for children.

A quilt show was held in a downtown building. Tammy Jones, one of the directors of the show, said there were 50 quilts displayed this year. Visitors traveled from as far as Birmingham to see the quilts.

"We had lots of local quilters participate, and we’re growing each year," Ms. Jones said. "We had a large turnout and several people voted this year."

The city park hosted several activities during the week as well. This year there was a Volkswagen parade, a community supper night, and a rail buggy demonstration held in the park.

Although Stevenson is a small town with fewer than 1,800 citizens, Barbee said several thousand people packed the downtown streets to partake in the festivities. The celebration even attracts people from Tennessee, Georgia and other states.

"Many of the people who come grew up here," Wanita Powell, the town librarian, said. "They love to come back to see their friends. There’s even a class reunion one night at the high school."

Much preparation went into the Depot Days festivities. Powell said Barbee even begins working on it in the winter.

"We have volunteer committees who help with the planning," Barbee said. "This year the mayor and I headed it up. But we have several capable committees who each oversee events of the Depot Days."

Next year promises to be even more fun, so make plans to join us for the 2007 Depot Days.

Grace Smith is an AFC intern.