Annual events feature lawn mower races, mule jumping

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

This weekend two Southeast Missouri communities are opening their doors to visitors around the area in their signature yearly events.

The Perry County town of Altenburg will host the long-standing East Perry Community Fair on Friday and Saturday, while the Scott County village of Commerce will celebrate life on the river with its 10th annual Floodfest on Saturday and Sunday.

Floodfest and the East Perry Community Fair take place in two distinctly different towns. Commerce is unprotected from the Mississippi River's flooding, a town where a few hangers-on stay in their houses on the high ground, safe from the possibility of high water. Altenburg is perched in the hills of Perry County, an old German agricultural community.

But each of the events gives local residents a homecoming celebration to be proud of and the chance to give visitors a slice of life in the communities.

"It's the kind of down-home country picnic you'd expect from a small community," said Bill Bailey, chair of the Commerce Board of Trustees. The main event in Commerce is Sunday's lawn mower race on the banks of the Mississippi.

On Saturday, Bailey said, the true taste of Commerce is supplied by the chicken and dumpling dinner held at the Methodist Church. "You really can't pass that up," he said.

As Floodfest celebrates its 10-year milestone, the East Perry County Fair's main event, mule jumping, will achieve its own historical milestone -- 25 years.

Over those years many thousands of people have come to tiny Altenburg for the food and atmosphere of an authentic hometown fair and to see mules jump over obstacles while Charlie Mangels narrates. This year the fair will add a new event to the entertainment -- truck pulls Saturday night.

Mike Engert, publicity chair for the East Perry Community Fair, said Altenburg's main street buzzes with activities from the parade that kicks off the event Friday until Sunday morning.

"We kind of joke that the whole town shuts down for that," Engert said of the parade. "Where I work, we ask off a year in advance to make sure the local guys get that day off."

Engert said the East Perry Community Fair's appeal comes from its affordability, food and the authentic view of small-town life the event gives visitors. While other small-town festivals are dying out, Engert said "this one just seems to grow and grow every year."

335-6611, extension 182

Want to go?

What: East Perry Community Fair

* When: Friday beginning at 8 a.m.; Saturday beginning at 9 a.m.

* Where: Altenburg Fair Grounds

* Info: (573) 824-5827

What: Commerce Floodfest

* When: Saturday beginning at 9 a.m., Sunday beginning at 11 a.m.

* Where: Commerce riverfront

* Info: (573) 264-2187

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