Once in a generation ‘Colony Day’ in the works

Proposed Colony celebration could be largest community event since early 1970s; planners reaching out to families across the country with local connections

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Colony Day’s first planning meeting included Mayor Donnis Leeth and town council members Ethel Alexander and Samuel Ashford, and Councilman Melvin Hammond by phone. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

COLONY, Ala. – On Saturday afternoon, Colony Town Council members held their first planning meeting for what could be the town’s largest community celebration in 50 years. Councilwoman Ethel Alexander, who has coordinated numerous local events in recent years, headed up the meeting on behalf of Councilman Melvin Hammond, who spearheaded the project but could not attend due to illness. Alexander communicated with Hammond by phone, and brainstormed ideas with Mayor Donnis Leeth and Councilman Samuel Ashford. 

Former State Representative Rev. James Fields, Jr., who was proposed to be the master of ceremonies for the event, will also serve on the planning committee. Additionally, the group will ask others to serve, and is seeking input from Colony’s ministers and other local leaders.

While “Colony Day” is in its earliest stages, planners laid out a few ideas. The event will include most or all of the municipal complex- town hall, Educational Complex, community center/gym and park- as well as selected locations in other parts of the town. Activities and exhibits could include:

  • Storytelling, especially focused on Colony’s history, churches, cemeteries and other noteworthy places
  • Scheduled tours and presentations at locations outside the municipal complex
  • Competitive cooking such as a barbecue cook-off, pie and cake contests
  • Basketball at the gym, volleyball in the park and softball on the ballfield
  • Presentations by elected officials from around Cullman County
  • Inflatables, games, crafts and face painting for the kids
  • Fire trucks and other emergency vehicles
  • Live music and other entertainment
  • Craft, food and retail vendors
  • Antique cars and tractors
  • Picnic in the park
  • Poetry contest

Planners understand that putting on such an event will be a challenge in terms of both logistics and finances, but Alexander said, “I believe if the people really want to have it, they’ll step up and donate money or donate their time. It just depends on where we want to go with it.”

Homecoming!

Planners will reach out to folks around Alabama and even across the country, to get people with Colony connections to come back for a visit. Mayor Leeth said he hopes to coordinate a Leeth family reunion with the event, and he would like to see other families do the same.

Repeating history

The actual scale of Colony Day will, of course, depend on community interest and participation, as well as fundraising, but Fields, who spoke to The Tribune Sunday, already sees parallels to a massive celebration held in his community in the early 1970s.

“It was one of the best things Colony had ever done,” said Fields. “We had people from every family, people from all parts of the country: California; Wichita, Kansas; of course Detroit, Michigan; Ohio- Cleveland, Canton, Cincinnati- Florida; Georgia; Mississippi. People made contact with family members with family members with family members- extended family members, and they planned that thing well, and it was a great event. It was like a three-day event: Friday night, all day Saturday, Saturday night, and then Sunday worship. It was beautiful; it was something to behold.”

Fields described a scene similar to what the current planners envision for this Colony Day, with folks frying fish and grilling, ball games, music and a pleasant evening banquet.

Fields continued, “There was people who met their relatives they didn’t even know exist(ed), and you knew that they were relatives because they looked just like each other! That was a good thing about it. It was a blessing for the community, a blessing to families, because, you know, you’ve talked to people, and you’re like, ‘Lord have mercy!’

“And the talent that came out of Colony, that had its roots in the Colony, people that were doing things in other parts of the country, it was amazing. Yeah, it was absolutely amazing.

“And see, now, you take all these people that are out there, 99% of them have probably never been to the Colony, if you can get them to come home, probably have never been.”

Fields is committed to whatever Colony can come up with this year, telling The Tribune, “I’m going to do all I can to make sure that this happens, because people need to know who they are, and they need to know their families. And we’ve got young people now who are doing exceptionally well in other parts of the country, and hopefully get them home.”

Get involved!

To keep up with plans or to help with the planning yourself, visit www.facebook.com/colony.townhall.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com