Jackson's crowd-pleasing tradition

Saturday, August 16, 2003

For those with a sweet tooth, Jackson resident and Homecomers veteran Gail Heimbach says the Masons have really good homemade ice cream.

The children will come for the carnival rides and the adults will come for the entertainment.

There's always a little something for everybody at the annual Homecomers celebration in Jackson.

This year's event, the 95th annual Homecomers, starts Tuesday and will run through Saturday.

"The meaning of what it means to people has probably evolved, but one thing remains constant," Mayor Paul Sander said. "I think it's just a time for people to gather on the courthouse lawn and renew friendships with people they haven't seen in a while. Some of those folks are always fun to see. The shows are always entertaining, and the tradition of it all is as important as anything."

The agenda has not changed much from years past.

There will still be a talent show and a queen contest. Bands will still play every night and the American Legion post will give out attendance prizes.

But Marybeth Williams, chairwoman of the Homecomers Entertainment Committee, says that's what is great about the festival -- it's the same every year.

Williams is particularly excited about the crop in this year's talent and queen contests.

She said as of Friday about 75 have entered the talent contests and six are queen contestants, including girls from Ste. Genevieve and Dexter.

"I think the talent contest is popular because there is no entry fee and the winners get to compete in the Mid-South Fair in Memphis," Williams said.

Nicole Thieret, a 17-year-old from Ste. Genevieve, said the Mid-South Fair is definitely a motivating factor to compete at Homecomers, but she said she likes competing in front of her relatives who live in Jackson and Perryville.

Thieret, who has been dancing since she was 5 years old and took second place in a national competition last year, will do her own choreographed number in the talent show.

"A few years ago, my dance teacher allowed me to start doing some choreography myself," she said. "I've done Homecomers since I was in the seventh grade and I've always enjoyed it. It's just fun to compete."

The talent shows will include comedy routines and two bands on Wednesday night, Williams said.

Programs are scheduled from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Friday and from 6 to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Perhaps fewer people will stay as late on the weekdays this year because school started earlier than normal. School is usually not in session during Homecomers.

Bill Poe, chairman of the Homecomers Committee, said he hopes that doesn't pull down the attendance, but "it's bound to affect the little ones in the first, second, third grades. Parents will want to get the little ones in early."

One of the highlights of Homecomers this year, Williams said, is that Amber Etheridge, Miss Missouri, will be the master of ceremonies of the event on Friday and Saturday nights.

For Heimbach, the ice cream is reason enough to attend.

"It's homemade ice cream, and you don't get that too often," she said. "It's usually hot, and the cool ice cream always tastes so good."



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