Almost a year ago, a group of people gathered around Pat Medill’s dining room table in Weatherby Lake, Mo. Platte County’s 175th anniversary approached.The consensus? We need to celebrate, but how?
Ideas flowed, but ideas are like fog at sunrise unless somebody actually does some work to make something happen. Work as in time, calling people, obligating yourself for duties, calling people again, cajoling, meeting deadlines, attending the event with your fingers crossed. Some people around the table knew one another. Others were strangers. Some serve the community as professionals. Some simply serve because they love their community. Almost all were volunteers for this project. By the way, Pat Medill serves the best coffee cake and pastries in the world. But I must admit that I was uncertain whether all the ideas floated could come to pass successfully. You see, journalists are very skilled at showing up at events and writing about what’s going on, what is right and what got flubbed. But we rarely plan anything. We look like we know what was going on because the only task is to capture highlights, or the sizzle off grilled steak that marketing folks like to talk about. So I wondered, is all this really possible? Luckily, the true believers jump in and organize and refuse to be discouraged. Let’s take Medill for instance. She was supposed to have a co-chair, but that person eventually bowed out. She was left with the baton, so she twisted arms and fired up the e-mail chains. Then we found ourselves on the Platte County Courthouse steps on a cold but sunny day, Dec. 31, 2013 — New Year’s Eve. A crowd gathered to kickoff the 175th, and committee members blinked and said, “Wow. This worked.” The good tone continued through the year. We’ve planted trees at Platte Ridge Park, and a prairie restoration is slated there, too. And amazingly rich remembrance of the Bonnie and Clyde shootout at the Red Crown was held. Matt Silber’s illustrated Platte County history book is a keeper. Civil War re-enactments at Camden Point and thoughtful Native American programs at Parkville set scholarly tones. Support from the Platte County Commission has been strong, and guidance from the county’s parks and recreation staff invaluable. But many different volunteers provide time and expertise, too. This past Saturday, Sept. 6, people in kayaks and canoes paddled down the Missouri River to the new Platte Landing Park at Parkville. The weather was cool, breezy and sunny — just perfect. Onlookers watched them land. Carolyn Elwess fired cannon salutes loud enough to have made salty soldiers on the Lewis and Clark Expedition take cover and wonder if the French had beaten them to the upper Missouri. They did, by the way. Then everyone gathered for some live music and the unveiling of art for a marker for Steamboat Arabia. Members of the Hawley family were present. They created one of nation’s finest museums from boat and merchandise that sank in 1856, things they painstakingly recovered from muck. Huzzah, huzzah, huzzah! The river and valley looks so pretty from that spot. People who participated had much fun. Let’s keep it going. They will someday look back and say we did a pretty good job making some good things happen in the 175th year, but I hope this has also revved up more events like this in the future just for the sake of a good time and bringing county history to life. We have another big event on the calendar for the 175th, too. A grand finale will be held on Sunday, Oct. 26, at the Wilson Center for the Performing Arts at Platte County R-3 High School. Chief organizer is Susan Anderson, chair for Platte City Friends of the Arts. She welcomes local artists who would like to exhibit their work in the hallways. Artists, photographers or crafts folk are encouraged to contact Anderson at (816) 868-5232 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The community bands from Parkville and Platte City will join forces to play the premier of a composition by Platte County native Michael Anderson for the 175th. Put it on your calendar, more fun. Encore!
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area with his family, may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.