Have you taken the scenic backroads through small town America? Have you seen her architecture, her town square? Do you know the history she has witnessed?
I have family in Magnolia, Arkansas and my mother is from there; one of my sisters was born there. Several branches of my tree began in this town and many parts, including a part of me, live there now. From Austin, I travel north on Highway 79 across east Texas toward Shreveport, LA then north again to Magnolia. My only company is the towering loblolly or short-needle pines. I pass by fields and farms or through squared off towns and townships with slow moving traffic and slower moving citizens. It amounts to a literal journey “over the river and through the woods” to my grandmother’s house.
Of all the things I have said or could say about my grandmother, I wrote this quip for her ninetieth birthday celebration invitation: Life like a rose, blessing the lives of others, one day at a time. She has an exquisite, envy-inducing rose garden that has flourished since 1960. Behind her home is a towering Magnolia tree, which played host to a number of my adventures when I was younger. Both the garden and tree had existed longer than her house, as she lost a home to a fire in the early 90’s.
This past weekend was the annual, since 1988, Magnolia Blossom Festival and World Championship Steak Cook-off. The event does not have grillers from across the world but does carries that much excitement and weight for the community.
The square is wrapped with festival staples such as classic carnival food trucks with foot long corn dogs, funnel cakes, blooming onions and other treats. Craft and game booths, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and bouncy castles surround the exterior. To fill the middle, they parade in the cookers; grills and smokers ranging in size from backyard friendly to a towering truck trailer. The community comes together the third weekend every May to celebrate each other, life and their love for both. Family is defined on the streets of this town as they serve each other and eat together.
Maybe it was only because of my family’s involvement and rich history there, but I never once felt like a visitor. I hope you will put such an experience to the test. Rather you visit for the Magnolia blossoms, the smell of pine, the taste of the town or to visit family, find your way to small-town America. Even better, find a festival and experience the community.