Back when the high school had a lawn and a canopy of large trees instead of a parking lot, we’d walk there and wait for the big yellow school bus to arrive, swatting at deer flies and each other with beach towels. Ours was the generation whose mothers never asked whether we wanted to participate in an activity. We just got signed up if they thought it would be good for us. Like it was their civic duty, or something. Every summer, that meant swimming lessons.
Summer vacation is always longer for moms than it is for kids. All the stinky tennis shoes at the door and the grape soda rings on the kitchen counters sent them over the edge. By the middle of July, our moms were seriously over it and just wanted some peace. Handing us a towel and pointing toward the bus gave them a few blessed hours without any whining or doors slamming. Swimming lessons were a win-win. Moms got their houses back and kids learned how not to drown. And so, from every house in the neighborhood, off we were sent to freeze our behinds in Deer Lake and learn to swim.
Next weekend, in my home town, families will gather. Friends will, too. There will be music and dancing, jingle dresses and drumming. Beer will be spilled. Bingo will be called. Fleas will be marketed. Carnival rides will squeak. The church ladies will serve lovely, comforting foods like turkey, wild rice hot dish, and homemade pie in church basements. There will be a parade, rain or shine. Fireworks will explode in the night sky. The Wild Rice Festival exists only because of careful planning and whole lot of hard work. Money raised by the Lions during the three-day festival goes directly back into the community for projects like the swimming program. It was true when I was a kid riding the bus to lessons; it’s still true today.
And so, if you are one of those kids from long ago who also didn’t drown, thank a Lion for that. Then, buy a button because you might just win some cash. Eat more than one burger. Play Bingo. Throw caution to the wind and go a little nuts. It’s the Rice Festival, after all!
Do it for the moms who are ready for school to start already. The ones scrubbing purple rings off their counter tops and muttering as they trip over shoes in the hall. Really. Just do it. So their kids don’t drown. I think it’s your civic duty. Or something.
It’s a win-win no matter how you cut it.