“Well I was born in a small town,

And I live in a small town,

Probably die in a small town,

Oh, those small communities.”

— John Mellencamp

Browsing on the web in search of song references to a “small town,” I found 2,252 lyrics, 54 artists and 100 albums, all heralding a way of life that is apparently more revered than big city life ever will be. Why is this much attention paid to a way of life that is seemingly on the decline? Simply put, it’s because small towns are a big deal! Author G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce variety and uncompromising divergences of men.” Many folks take pride in having been born in a small town, but small towns are also the the preferred way of life for many people who are fortunate enough to be able to choose where they want to live. You’ll sometimes hear me say, “I wasn’t born here, but I got here just as fast as I could!” Yes, small towns are small, but they are also the expansive stuff of great novels, movies, plays and yes, music! The genius and compassion of “To Kill a Mockingbird’s” Atticus Finch would have never matured and surfaced in the morass of the legal system in a big city. Anne’s Green Gables would have been demolished in the name of “progress” in a big city. Andy and Barney might have been laughed out of the police department in a big city. And, no doubt, without the small town qualities of these beloved characters, songs, stories and places, the world would be a sadder place, bereft of the essence of the unique life lessons that are best learned, perhaps only learned, in a small town.

So you may be wondering, what’s the big deal of your small town life? You have to get out and take part in the community to find out! Small town life may be boring to those who don’t make the effort, but they don’t speak for the rest of us. There is always something going on in White Springs and much of it is positive, informative and inspirational. You can get an education here! Elderhostel used to send three of four groups a year of 20 or so people from all over the nation to experience a week of life in White Springs, learning about the folklife, culture, ecology and heritage of the region. The class always got rave reviews. For reasoning that I don’t understand or agree with, Elderhostel no longer hosted here, but all the things that they cherished are still here for the rest of us!

For instance … If you ever wanted to finally follow through on your desire to improve your musical skills, a world class opportunity awaits you right here in White Springs at the “Old Time Music Weekend,” Friday, Sept. 13, through Sunday, Sept. 15, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Stephen Foster State Park. This three-day event offers participants in-depth instruction in old-time music techniques on the banjo, guitar, vocals and fiddle for all levels. Instructors for this year include Tom Mylet, Kirk Sutphin, Anne Whitley, Bob Carlin, Ted Strauss, Lloyd Baldwin, Chuck Levy and the Bucksnort Barndance Band. This is one of those opportunities that could change your life in a positive way and its right here in your small town back yard! For registration information, call Park Ranger Andrea Thomas at 386-397-2733.

So you may not write a song about it or a book or a play (but then again, who knows) but if you care about your small town, get involved. I promise you, it will make a difference!

Well, once again, I’ve said enough but, as always, I do want to remind you that if you have news you want to share, you should let “Life in White Springs” help. We’re always glad to hear about goings on in the community and will be glad to share anything that is appropriate for this column. I am thankful that we can depend on each other, and I hope that we can continue to feel proud of who we are and where we’re headed, and that we all appreciate how White Springs and its surrounding region is a very special place, to be honored and protected. As always, I look forward to seeing you out and about, enjoying your community and your small town way of life in White Springs.

Walter McKenzie



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