By Terry Harris
According to Sussex Chamber of Commerce President Jesse Hellyer, having 400 people show up on the streets of Waverly to share a good time together at their first mid-week fall festival proved that their experiment worked.
Calling the Wednesday, Sept. 29 event that shut down Maifield Avenue for some outdoor fun “a bit of a flashback” to a time when smalltown America businesses often closed on Wednesday afternoons, Hellyer said, “The Town of Waverly is doing a terrific job of improving the downtown area. So, we chose this location for the first of what we hope will be many such events, because it was simple to find as well as easy for people to walk around and still enjoy the music. They’ve been recruiting new businesses, so we also saw this as an opportunity to show off the new and old businesses and the nice downtown area.”
He explained that the Chamber chose to invest in FAB – the popular Feature Attraction Band – to draw friends and neighbors together, both to bring awareness of the many great businesses in the area, and to show local folks that there are great things to do – together - in Sussex County.
To that end, at five p. m. local businesses as well as 37 local vendors and organizations began sharing four hours of fellowship and fun with friends and neighbors. And when FAB hit the stage at six, the crowd quickly went from individuals swaying to the music to a happy, mixed group laughing and enjoying line dances together.
And as everyone moved from area to area, enjoying the music and fun of discovering new businesses like Claremont Candle Company, petting dogs and cats from Sussex Animal Shelter, chatting with the folks from the Blackwater Library, enjoying food options like hot dogs, funnel cakes, fried Oreos, and even cheeseburgers and fried chicken from the Virginia Diner Food Truck, it was obvious from the smiling faces that all were having a good time.
Waverly citizen Yvonne Taylor, who was standing and moving to the beat of the music at the edge of the crowd, enthused, “I love it! I love it! This is so nice!”
After explaining that she grew up in Waverly but had moved around with her husband “all around the world” while he was in service, she said that they chose to move back to Waverly to raise their children in a better place.
“I’d love if they do something like this again and again to bring people together,” she added. “I’ll never forget it!”
Afterward, one vendor, LaSonya White with Sycamore Springs Farm Market out of Surry, describing the event as “very nice – well put together and organized,” added, “And it was so nice to see everyone out having fun dancing, chatting – a very exciting event. I’m really glad I came!”
Hellyer said, “The event exceeded all my expectations! And the Town of Waverly employees and Sheriff Giles and all his people? We just could not have done this without them.”
“I’m just so happy so many different people had a great time,” he continued, “and seeing the joy in their faces with the music and dancing in the street meant everything to me. We are already looking into doing this on a regular basis, going throughout the county, maybe alternating from east to west, spreading it around.”
Mayor McPhaul, added, “I’m just so excited about how this went. It was great seeing everyone having fun, and what a great mix of age groups! This lets us know that this is what they want. From infants to the elderly, everyone was just having fun together, and we really just so much appreciate the citizens who took a chance on spending their Wednesday evening downtown. Because without the people showing up to support it, nothing that we do as a chamber, or a town means anything.”
Sheriff Giles probably summed up the evening best when he said, “I’m just so glad to see the community coming out to just enjoy a beautiful evening outside, together. It was like a bridge being closed – a drawing together. I really enjoyed what actually was an outstanding clear, statement of this community wanting unity. I really enjoyed that – how it shows unity. This is the way it should be. “