Homecomers keeps families fed, entertained

Wednesday, August 10, 2005
A crowd gathered at Jackson's 97th annual Homecomers celebration Tuesday.

Annual celebration includes homemade ice cream, fried fish and talent contest.

For the Rushin family of Jackson, there were lots of reasons to come to the Jackson Homecomers festival Tuesday night.

Among those reasons -- the food.

"I come for the homemade ice cream," said Richard Rushin.

The DeMolay Homemade Ice Cream stand, run by the youth organization's Excelsior Chapter in Jackson, has been a Homecomers standard since 1962, in the same location, tucked between two buildings.

"Every year they look for it," said Brian Lape, one of the DeMolay advisers. Some people even buy the cool treat numerous times a night, with a side of root beer.

The sweltering heat may not be good for those attending Homecomers, but it makes business at the ice cream stand strong.

"The hotter it is, the better it is for us," said Lap.

But Rushin also comes for another treat, the Optimist Club's fried fish.

"I've been eating it for years," said Rushin, who was joined by wife Debbie and sons 11-year-old Ben and 10-year-old Jackson, who came for the food and the games.

But like many others at Homecomers, the family was also there to cheer on a family member in the talent show, 14-year-old daughter Jill.

Homecomers' popular talent show is just one on the circuit for the Gromer family of Marble Hill. Gary and Vickie Gromer's 14-year-old daughter, Brandi, performed in her third straight Homecomers talent contest, fresh on the heels of winning a berth in the SEMO District Fair's Heartland Idol contest after a performance in Perryville.

Brandi aspires to one day be a Nashville star, and maybe her performance of Sara Evans' "A Real Fine Place to Start" at Homecomers could help get her there.

"It's awesome," Brandi said of performing on stage. "I used to get nervous; now it's more about having fun than getting nervous."

Mom Vickie said having fun is really all that matters, whether Brandi becomes a superstar or not.

"The biggest thing is for her to just be herself and enjoy what she's doing," said Vickie.

Tuesday night's talent show featured a variety of musical performances from people ages 13-21, including a Motown medley by 14-year-old Mallory Rhodes of Cape Girardeau and 17-year-old Adam Reinagel of Kelso; a Broadway medley by 13-year-old Katlyn Robinson of Cape Girardeau and an impressive performance of "I Will Always Love You" by 13-year-old Brittany Graham of Cape Girardeau.

While most performed songs that were written and originally performed by someone else, hometown boy Luke Wade performed his own hip-hop tune called "In Iraq."

Wade, a specialist with the 1140th Engineering Battalion, wrote the song while he was in Iraq. He wore his desert fatigues to Homecomers, and the talent performance wasn't the only exciting part about the festival for Wade.

After 14 months in Iraq, the festival was a chance for him to have fun and catch up with friends that he may not have seen since his March return. It was also a chance to carry on his own hometown tradition.


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