Carol Graham thought the theme was corny until it grew on her.
“Television comes to Newville … I kind of like it now,” the Illinois native said Friday during the 22nd annual Fountain Festival in the downtown.
“It is the essence of Newville,” she said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
A borough resident for 11 years, Graham looks forward to the porch decoration contest. This time around, she was inspired by the series “Little House on the Prairie,” a favorite of hers growing up.
“I always thought the show was very wholesome and had a good message,” Graham said. “It portrayed the parents in a good light. They were always wise.”
Based on novels by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the series flourished from 1974 to 1982 and focused on childhood memories from the northern Midwest.
Three years ago, Graham dressed up for an event as Betsy Ross , an experience that broke the ice and drew her into the hobby of costume making.
One day she was browsing a yard sale outside Newville when she saw a handmade prairie dress for sale. That got her thinking. Later she bought an old apron from an antique shop.
When Fountain Festival 2017 opened Friday afternoon, Graham had her porch decorated and ready for the competition. As part of her display, visitors could look into the window and see the Ingalls girls sitting and reading a book. Graham had accented the scene with artificial grass. To get into character, she put on the dress and apron and completed the ensemble with a straw hat.
Seeing her costume, the judges encouraged Graham to walk down the street to a stage near the fountain and enter the TV lookalike contest. She won by virtue of being the only person to enter.
At first Graham was turned off by the very notion of a contest that glorified looking at the tube. She thinks people nowadays spend way too much time in front of computer and smartphone screens. But gradually she warmed up to the idea of portraying a character inspired by “Little House.”
“I was hoping more people would get into the idea of doing characters … doing skits,” Graham said. “Newville … it kind of grows on you.”
Like mother, like daughter
Nearby, Kate Madorsky was enjoying the afternoon with her husband Matthew and four kids ages five-and-a-half months to 8 years. Her sons were splashing around in the iconic fountain that gives the festival its name..
“I never miss one,” Madorsky said. “We came to the first one and never stopped. I love it. It’s fun to have the street shut down. You just walk around and see all your neighbors. It’s a good place to catch up.”
The Fountain Festival proved memorable six years ago when Madorsky was 10 days overdue with her daughter Lucy. Figuring exercise would help to induce labor, she walked all around her hometown and visited the annual street fair.
At first, Lucy was not in a big hurry to see the world. Madorsky walked all day until finally she went into labor and the girl was born a short time later. Since 2011, the Newville Fountain Festival has been known as Lucy’s Birthday Festival.
It is now a tradition for the Madorsky family to head for the fountain on Friday night to have something for dinner before going over to Kate’s childhood home at the corner of West and West Main streets.
There the family settles in to watch the Fountain Festival parade a.k.a. “Lucy’s Birthday Parade.” Kate Madorsky was born in late May around Memorial Day, so growing up she thought the holiday parade was for her.
Frank Reeder, 71, a lifelong Newville resident, was enjoying fries. To him, Fountain Festival is an annual impromptu reunion where he can reconnect with other members of the Big Spring High School Class of 1964.
“Five years ago, on this very day, the high school softball team won the state championship,” Reeder said. He recalled how heading home the girls were asked whether they wanted to celebrate with a steak dinner. They refused the offer and instead insisted on being driven straight to Newville so they could be there for the Fountain Festival parade.
“They put them on a fire truck and came through town,” Reeder said. “Everybody applauded and cheered them on. You just felt a real closeness of the town. The team wanted to be part of it. That is typical of what goes on around here.”
For years Reeder has made it a point to visit the Fountain Festival on Friday and buy a hot sausage sandwich with onions and green peppers from Boy Scout Troop 174 of Newville.
“It’s nice that the community supports us,” Scoutmaster Gordon Holl said Friday. “They appreciate what we do, and we appreciate them for supporting us.”
Money from the sale of the sausage sandwiches goes directly into the individual accounts of the participating scouts and into the troop fund.
For the boys who take down the orders and serve the food, it’s practice for them to learn salesmanship and interpersonal skills.