It may only be Thursday but most of the people in my sleepy Central-Kansas town are preparing to check out for the week.
For the past 99 years, my hometown, McPherson, Kan., has celebrated the graduation of eighth graders across the county. It’s an odd celebration that is unique to McPherson but it’s one of many things that make Small Town America the best place to live.
McPherson All Schools Day celebration – which started with evening events Wednesday and will continue through the weekend – originated in a time of one-room schoolhouses. Students across the county would “graduate” from their neighborhood one-room schools and move to the large, community-based high schools to start ninth grade.
The celebration consisted of a parade for the graduating eighth graders and a May Fete celebration that highlighted the talents of students of all ages. The tradition of winding of the May pole was also incorporated into the celebration.
Today, all of those elements remain part of All Schools Day and dozens of other activities – for young and old – have been added to the now weekend-long celebration. The parade – which will kick off tomorrow (Friday, May 11) at 10:30 a.m. – and other events do create a headache for some and puts business in McPherson on hold, but the event is the one time of the year the entire McPherson community – and McPherson County – comes together to celebrate. Local and state politicians join in the celebration – including our governor – and anyone that aims to be seen and heard knows the parade is the place to be.
Kids ride through the sky at the carnival, teens enjoy cheers from the crowd while riding on parade floats and adults get an opportunity to reunite with old friends and classmates for a weekend of old-school fun. Time magazine has traveled to McPherson to document the tradition and communities across Kansas have aimed to duplicate the celebration’s success. It’s all part of McPherson history and appeal.
All Schools Day – and the millions of other unique celebrations that have become traditions for small towns across the country – is what makes rural America the best place in the world to live and just another reason I wouldn’t change my farm life and small-town roots for anything in the world.
Read more about All Schools Day at www.allschoolsday.com