photo of the week

Our Country's True Character

This giant Dumas, Arkansas, High School Bobcat looms large as it takes its place in the finale of the Dumas Homecoming and Ding Dong Days parade on September 28.  This is the first time the 33-year-old-festival and the long-standing high school homecoming were combined.  Not only was the festival date changed, the parade route was redirected to pass through a residential setting instead of following the traditional downtown path.  Though it was a radical change for both venues, the community seemed to like the new way of doing things.  Symbolically, the parade and the event make us take a long look at our country and its true character.

ding dong Dumas

Sunday, September 29, 2013
Pine Buff, Arkansas

This is America. This is the real thing.

The real America is not archived, drive-by b-rolls of crumbling Detroit neighborhoods, the kind of surface urban decay that news directors love to showboat.  The real America is not an endless series of sensationalized crises, transmogrified into dramatic productions with screaming computer graphics and ominous background music.  The real America is not a non-stop rampage of breaking news alerts that have become our daily fare on the alleged news channels — TV tabliods clawing each other’s eyes out for ratings.

backside of the Cat

Back of the Cat

The giant Bobcat is actually the inflatable tunnel through which the “Fighting Bobcats” sprint as they hit the field to do four quarters of gridiron battle with their latest opponent.  Because the parade was relocated away from overhead utility and communication wires, the big cat became the crown-jewel of the new parade.  The grounds people had to hustle to get the big boy from the float and onto the field in time for the homecoming game.  The kids at the back of the cat are having as much or more fun as the kids in front.


Doing Good Things to Entertain

People in Dumas believe in doing good things and dressing up in box costumes to entertain their neighbors.  What a novel idea!

The real America is not the endless-loop keystone-cop playground-bully cruelty-joke we see in our nation’s capital.  The real America is Dumas, Arkansas.  It is important to note here that Dumas is not alone.  There are thousands of similar communities in the real America.  Like Dumas, their condition is overlooked in the race for media ratings and web visitors.  That said, we can’t pull the curtains back on thousands, but we can on Dumas.

on the fire truck

Let's Ride!

Regardless of age, riding on a fire truck in a parade is a hoot.  If you don’t believe it, look at those faces.

Dumas has a good attitude, which is manifested in mutual respect.  You notice it everywhere in town.  People honorably tolerate their differences and work together with gusto to make the most of their similarities.  Combining the annual Ding Dong Days Festival with homecoming made good sense for a lot of reasons.  Everywhere you went, people were talking about how nice it all was.

let's sit down and eat

Another Kind of Homecoming

Saturday festivities cranked up at 6 a.m. with the Merle Peterson Memorial Pancake Breakfast, an annual event honoring its namesake, a local leader who made a profound difference for good in the community.  Dozens of attendees look forward to the event every year, which becomes a small homecoming in and unto itself.  The food was wonderful — and no, I did not make it at 6 a.m.  I came dragging in about 15 after nine.

The toasty Delta climate had a lot to do with the ultimate decision to change the date of the festival to late September.  Dong Dong Days was formerly held during the last weekend in July.  If you're in Minnesota, it can be balmy, I suppose, but in our beloved Delta the temperature in summertime is normally a “hunnerd in the shade and the @#!%!! humidity is so thick you can slice it."

walker winners

They Walked to Victory.

The Ding Dong Days 5K Walk-Run started at 8 a.m. on Saturday.  These are the walker-winners.  I arrived too late to record runner-winners.  The 5K start and finish was on Court Street, a quiet and tree-shaded stretch with the First United Methodist Church on one side of the street and residences on the other.  An idyllic Delta neighborhood setting, Court Street was the site for all Saturday activities, appropriately named “Fun Day.”

On top of the aforementioned meteorological torture, one could observe that there were a lot of possum-blonde tresses among those who annually engineered the Ding Dong Days Festival.  It did not take a consortium of rocket scientists to determine that if the festival were to survive, it would need a demographic overhaul in the leadership department.  Mind you, this is heady stuff in a small town.

Despite the potential difficulties, in less than 12 months the good folks of Dumas got their heads together, summarily jettisoned conventional wisdom, and came up with a radical new concept — and it worked!  If only this concept would waft in an easterly direction and descend on the banks of the Potomac.

hula hooping

Hula Hoop Happiness

This young lady busied herself doing what she does best, which is being a delightful little girl.  While the little one whirled the hoop, her civic-minded mother minded the event's tee-shirt sales table on Court Street.

Folks, these snapshots and words define my ideal picture of the Real America.  People respecting one another.  People doing what they do best without petty side issues.  People making things happen.  Stars and Stripes forever!!

See all 83 pictures from both days in our Ding Dong Days Gallery. You know the routine:  Kindly click and go!


N O T E  to  the  C U R I O U S :   For those who are idly curious and do not know:  Ding Dong Days is named after a popular song from the 1920s, Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas, which was frequently performed in the area.

Photo Notes

Top and second pictures, Big Cat, both ends Nikon D300, ISO 200, Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6, EX DC HSM, 1/500@f9. Others: Nikon D7100, AF-S VR Nikkor 18-200 G ED, ISO 200. Marching boxes, 1/500@f11; Fire truck riders, same exposure. Last two pix Nikon D300, ISO 200, Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6, EX DC HSM, pancake breakfast, ISO 800, 1/125@f5.6. Little girl, ISO 200 1/250@f6.3, slight fill flash.


see more
How many kids can you stuff
in a pickup bed?  For the answer,
and for a look at some heavy brass —
and last but certainly not least (gasp!),
a glimpse of some snake handling —
well, it's all part of our 2013 Homecoming
and Ding Dong Days event review at
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.  Click, go and be amazed!

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