John Howell’s Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fest/homecoming beat Ole Miss game

In the Little Miss Crowder contest last Saturday during the Crowder Fall Fest, three of the nine contestants shared the first name McKenzie. Must have been a bumper crop that year.

Name trends in our society often reflect pop culture — we often name our children after our current heroes. Peyton became the most popular name in Tennessee for both baby boys and good dogs following the elder Manning son’s quarterback stint in orange.

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And one of the Mackenzies in the Crowder contest — little Mackenzie Logan Johnson — was selected as Little Miss Crowder during what was the perfect day for a fall festival.

“We’re hoping for a pretty fall weekend,” Crowder Town Clerk Lynette Bland had said late last spring when she called to tell us of the festival and its date. They got it.

Block off a couple of streets with fire trucks, invite food vendors, schedule good music and set up a stage for the musicians — all of which, admittedly, is more easily stated than done.

But it worked well. Any event in Crowder seems to turn into a homecoming. And walking through the crowd Saturday reminded me how many Batesville folks grew up in Crowder. We enjoyed the music and the food and basked in the antics and in the accomplishments of children and grandchildren.

When festival plans went awry, it was little noticed by the crowd. Lynette got a call that morning that two of the out-of-town judges for the Little Miss contest had been injured in an auto accident while traveling to Crowder and would be unable to attend. She drafted Sherry Bailey, the pageant emcee, to help her locate two more. Bailey, Lynette said, called 22 people as she scrambled for help in salvaging the Little Miss event. It seems that everyone contacted, Lynette continued, had tickets to the Ole Miss game and were planning to attend. As events turned out, they’d have had a much better time at the Crowder Fall Fest

And by the time of the pageant, two more judges had graciously agreed on short notice to serve. It went off without a hint to us spectators that suggested behind-the-scenes anxiety had preceded it.

The introductions of the little misses dated me. The names I recognized belonged to their grandparents.

One or more of the little misses’ stage debuts clashed with nap times. It happens at that age. At my age also.

One little miss was bribed into her stage debut by the offer of a kitten. As soon as she had been introduced during her initial trip across the stage, she walked back to her mother who had brought the promised kitten to the festival. Every subsequent trip that the little miss made back to the stage was to her just an inconvenient interruption in playing with her new, gray-striped kitten.

That little miss was Edie Rose Blaylock, whose grandparents include Oty and Jill Carpenter Sherman of Charleston and Pope School Principal Susan Vance. She was selected first alternate but soon became the envy of every kid at the festival. She was the only one there with a new, gray-striped kitty and everybody wanted one, including the town dog, a black and tan mongrel that everyone seemed to know.

When little Miss Elizabeth Tarpley was introduced as the granddaughter of Johnny and Teresa Tullus, I looked at her mother and saw a family resemblance.

Later, after the selection of Mackenzie Logan Johnson as Little Miss Crowder had been announced, Teddy Austin confided to me a proud, “That’s my granddaughter.” He was a grandparent whose name I had missed during the introductions.

And so it went. Old friends and their children, new friends, food and music all on a lovely fall day.

Crowder set a good precedent with its fall festival