To say that Saturday was a good day in Tupelo would be an understatement.
Mother’s Day weekend in the city usually is. There’s always the invasion of the artists here for Gum Tree, the city’s oldest festival, setting up their tents around the courthouse, showing and selling beautiful art. And of course there’s Tupelo’s premier athletic event, the annual Gum Tree 10k, with elite runners, plodders and everything in between moving at their own paces around the city.
Both these events happened as usual this year, but they took on new and greater meaning, symbolically and substantively.
That they both happened at all signaled that Tupelo and the nearby area won’t let the tornado that devastated portions of it halt the activities, events and festive spirit that help give this locale its identity and sense of community. In an economically tangible way, it also demonstrated what the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau and others have been proclaiming since April 28: Tupelo is open for business.
Some discussion took place between Gum Tree race organizers and the city after the tornado about whether the race should proceed. Any doubts that going ahead with the event was the right decision were dispelled by the crowds that turned out to cheer the runners all along the course, including in the hardest-hit areas of the city. It was both an affirmation of the indefatigability of the Tupelo spirit and a lift to spirits in general. If ever there were a year when this race needed to be run, and where it would gain a significance beyond the norm, this was it.
In addition to these annual but, this year, particularly special events involving artists and athletes, something else notable but not surprising happened in Tupelo on Saturday. On display again for everyone to see was the incredible generosity of the people of Northeast Mississippi.
As they did in 2011 after the tornado that devastated Smithville, media organizations in Lee County – the Daily Journal, WTVA, the Lee County Courier, Tupelo Radio Broadcasting Group, the Mississippi Radio Group and Snyder Media came together for a “Mediathon” to raise funds for the CREATE Foundation’s tornado relief fund. At the end of the two-hour event, the total raised stood at $228,847, an amazing tribute not only to a giving spirit but to the connections people in this community, region and state feel with each other. Donations are still being accepted at www.CreateFoundation.com.
Great and familiar events lifting people’s spirits. A tangible outpouring of caring support. A community’s day doesn’t get much better than that.