Video, photo show to be part of this year's Homecomers

Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Kids enjoy the Dragon Wagon roller coaster at Homecomers in downtown Jackson on July 27, 2010. (Southeast Missourian file)

Jackson Homecomers will kick off its 104th anniversary July 24 with new attractions alongside tried-and-true draws to historic uptown.

The event started in 1908, when people gathered to celebrate the completion of the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse and the installation of the memorial for Confederate Army Col. William L. Jeffers at the city cemetery, said Larry Koehler, chairman of the Homecomers committee for the American Legion Post 158 in Jackson. It took off from there to become an annual festival, Koehler said, though a few years were missed, such as during wartime.

For the first time this year, Jackson and Homecomers history will be highlighted in a multimedia display created by the Jackson Community Outreach Board involving video of local seniors and photographs of uptown vendors, past Homecomers crowds and five local landmarks.

From Tuesday through Saturday, a 20-minute video of the seniors' memories of Jackson will play on a continuous loop in the window of the former Ross Furniture building at 116 S. High St. Sound will be piped to the sidewalk for passers-by. On Friday and Saturday evening, the doors will open to admit people to the photography exhibit.

"They kind of revealed some neat things I think a lot of people don't know about Jackson," said Michelle Doughten of the Jackson Community Outreach Board Homecomers committee member about the video. "I think it is something everyone's going to want to see and tell their friends about."

Also in commemoration of Homecomers history, longtime food vendors will be recognized and invited to the festival stage to talk about their participation in past celebrations, said Wendy Hayes, co-organizer of this year's entertainment.

Although formal counts are not kept of visitors to the free festival, Hayes estimated that as many as 35,000 people will congregate uptown to brave carnival rides, eat foods from various vendors, watch band and talent performances and visit with neighbors.

"Every night, you have a little bit of a different draw," Hayes said. "It's a great way to see people in the community,"

Prizes will be awarded to performers young and old in a range of events as the week progresses.

Jackson Mayor Barbara Lohr will welcome attendees July 24, followed by live music by the Jackson Municipal Band.

Later that evening, the 15th annual youth and adult 5K race, held by the Jackson parks and recreation department, will take place at the American Legion Baseball field. Youth runners ages six to 12 can participate in the one-mile race. Runners as young as 14 can compete in the 5K and winners in 10 age groups will be recognized.

Young women will compete for the title of Homecomers queen in July 24's final event, and the winner will make appearances at festival events throughout the rest of the week.

On July 25, singers ages 55 and older will compete in the Senior Idol contest sponsored by Montgomery Bank. Along with a cash prize, winners will be invited back to the stage July 28. There will also be gospel singing and gospel band performances following Senior Idol.

Children as young as 6 can participate in the Homecomers talent show, a showcase of vocal and dance performances for people up to age 21. Winners of the preliminary contest Thursday will be invited to the finals July 27, which will be attended by a talent scout for the Mid-South Fair. The final talent winners and possibly other selected performers will be asked to join the talent competition for scholarships at the large regional fair held in September in Southhaven, Miss.

After the talent show, entertainment will be provided by the Senior Notes Band.

July 28 is the last night of Homecomers, capped off with bluegrass music by Southern Illinois' Old Santa Fe Band.

There will be carnival rides operating every night of Homecomers. Tickets will be sold for $1 and the number required for each ride will vary. On Thursday, ride operators United Exposition Inc. of De Soto, Mo., will host an armband night when attendees can ride all evening for $20.

Several local churches will be providing free meals and religious outreach throughout the week to individuals in need.

There will be free attendance drawings by the American Legion each night, awarding five $10 prizes to people present at 10 p.m. Free tickets can be picked up at the court house gazebo.

The American Legion is also selling raffle tickets at $1 each for a drawing Saturday with a grand prize of $1,000. Ticket holders for the raffle do not have to be present to win. Tickets are available from legion members or at their booth at Homecomers.

Entries for the talent competition, Homecomers queen, Senior Idol and Gospel singing and band events are still being accepted and Hayes said she encourages anyone interested to get involved.

Koehler said Homecomers has something for all ages and the American Legion invites everyone to visit Jackson and attend.

"It's a community event and it's something that we are proud to do every year and proud to be a part of," Koehler said. "Just come out and enjoy it."

For more information, visit www.jacksonhomecomers.com. Contest registration forms can be downloaded from the website or picked up in person at the Jackson Chamber of Commerce. For race information, contact the parks and recreation department at 204-8848 or email at swanderson@jacksonmo.org. A detailed listing of each event will also appear in Friday's SE Live section of the Southeast Missourian.

salderman@semissourian.com

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Jackson, MO

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