By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times
It all started in 1988 with a short, almost passive statment: “Let’s have a little get-together.”
Dan Walton, one of the Mantachie Fest Committee’s original members, said the annual event was built from there.
“It was set up to be a get-together for the community and help the local civic clubs make a little money,” he said. “But, we wanted to make an event that was for everybody. Now, we have a lot of folks come from all around. Some people who have moved off even come home for it.”
This year marks the 25th anniversary of town’s big event. Set, as it has been for more than two decades, on the third weekend of September — the 17th and 18th specifically — the Mantachie Fest celebration is expected to draw hundreds of people from the town and its surrounding communities to Mantachie Park for music, games and fellowship.
Having watched the festival grow from infancy, Walton said he understands how important it is to the Mantachie community.
“This is something people look forward to every single year,” Walton said. “They get down there and see people they haven’t seen in a while. There’s music and entertainment — something for all ages.
“And everybody comes to Mantachie Fest,” Walton added. “You see people down there you don’t get to see every day, maybe even only during the fest.”
Perhaps one of the greatest marvels about the festival is just how well it’s been maintained over the years. Very little has changed during its lifetime — there’s a large car show; lots of country and gospel music, including a second day of nothing but gospel singing and worship; and dozens upon dozens of vendors packed end-to-end inside the park.
And just as it was in the beginning, planning for the event is still handled by a small committee of five to six members — two of whom, Walton and Tommy David Franks, have sat on the committee since its creation.
“We have a small board, but there are always other people who help out every year,” Franks said. “They might not come to a meeting; you may not even talk to them about it, but you can count on these folks to show up on the day of the fest ready to help. You can count on these people.”
And, at its heart, that kind of community spirit is what Mantachie Fest has always been about. It’s the “get-together” it was alway intended to be — a time for community.
“It’s not about the town,” Walton stressed. “It’s about the community — all of the people who live in and around Mantachie.”
It’s that cohesive spirit that’s held the event together for so long and will likely keep it together long down the road.
“I want to see Mantachie Fest go another 25 years,” Franks said. “And I’d like to be around for the 50th anniversary.”
Adam Armour can be reached at 862-3141, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting his blog at itawamba360.com.