From the museum
To borrow a phrase from Julie Andrews in a movie, every fourth Saturday in October, “The hills are alive with the sound of music,” laughter, food and fun! You don’t need to travel to the Alps, however, because all of this can be found nearby in the historic Drew County community known as Possum Valley.
Possum Valley is an old community that dates back as early as the 1840s. Early records show settlers in the area at that time, many of whom traveled by flatboats up the Saline River to settle in the lowland valley.
The community is said to have been named Possum Valley after a group of hunters became lost in the dense forests for several days. After two or three cold, hunger-filled days, they killed, cooked and ate a possum. From that time, the area became known as Possum Valley.
Most communities grew up around churches and Possum Valley was no exception. The first church in the valley was the Macedonia Baptist Church located in the sixteenth section of land in the valley. Then, in 1863, Alfred and Nancy Ozment gave land for a Methodist or other congregational church to be established more near the center of the community. That church was a log structure that was replaced by the present day Valley Methodist Church and the community grew and prospered around it.
After the turn of the century, the community became renowned for its agricultural endeavors, particularly its tomatoes and other produce. In the mid-1940s, the community began to wither as people moved from farms to other jobs. In 1948 the community lost its school when it consolidated with Drew Central Schools. By 1965, the once-flourishing community had scattered and even the Methodist Church Conference dropped its affiliation with the Valley church.
Over the next few years, the building began to deteriorate. However, because of the historical significance of the old church building and its place in the community’s history, several residents became concerned with the fate of the old structure and wanted to see it preserved.
In 1985, after some discussion, the Methodist Conference relinquished title to the property to the community. Then the ladies of the Valley Extension Homemakers Club (EHC) stepped into their role as preservers, providers and protectors of the old church building. In that year, they began a tradition that has continued and grown to this day.
This year and, in fact, this Saturday, the club will hold its 26th Possum Valley Fun Day to raise funds to be used for the maintenance and upkeep of the church building and property that is now known as the Valley Community Center. The day can be described as part homecoming/part fundraiser, and it is surely a day of good, old-fashioned family fun!
Possum Valley Fun Day has always centered around food, crafts and music. The first year, snacks and the crafts were all exhibited within the old church building. Local craftsperson Thelma Ellis has operated the quilt show from inside the building since the Fun Day activities began.
That first year the entertainers performed from the bed of a long hay trailer. The next year, a concrete pad was poured to provide a stage area and seating. Through the years, money raised has kept the building roofed and painted until aluminum siding was added, provided a cover for the concrete pad, added a basketball court and purchased a PA system.
Many other improvements have occurred over the years. At first, food or snacks were brought from home. Later, a kitchen was added and food has been prepared to order onsite for several years. (Of course, the fried pies and other delectables are made offsite and brought in.)
Various other games and activities have come - and gone - over the years, including possum races, cake walks, auctions and several “beauty” contests. However, the Fun Day’s favorite activity would have to be the evening dances. The last event of the day is a dance and dancers come from many places in, and out, of Drew County to enjoy this event.
My favorite memory of the Fun Day will always be that last event. Its beginning was signaled when the late James Glennon would bring out a sack of corn meal and “dust” the floor for the dancers. He is gone now and the 2009 Possum Valley Fun Day was dedicated to his memory.
Time changes everything and Possum Valley Days have grown even better through the years. This year the event will actually begin Friday night with a gumbo/chili supper from 5-8 p.m. and entertainment provided by the Haley Creek Boys. A hayride will close out the evening.
Saturday promises another fun- and food-filled day from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Along with a myriad of games, crafts and other activities, several guest performers will entertain during the day. A catfish lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with other food, drinks and treats available throughout the day from the kitchen.
Come on out to Possum Valley Fun Day and enjoy the activities and festivities all day. Meet Mrs. Thelma and admire the quilts. You’ll have a great time and be assured that all funds raised go back into the fund for the preservation of the old Valley Methodist Church building and community center.
Music for the evening dance will be provided by Jimmy Orrell and the Blue West Band. I trust someone will bring the cornmeal. Step lively! Mr. ”Shorty” will be watching!