Last weekend Marcus, Iowa, doubled (maybe tripled) in size.
A group of Marcus residents worked for a year to plan an all-school reunion, a Marcus family sponsored two bands that played at the end of Main Street under the stars and the alumni came back home from all over the country.
On top of all this, the town also celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Marcus Community Fair, a three-day event that included an alumni baseball game, a 5K memorial run, loads of 4-H animals, a parade with lots of candy for the kids, rides, games and all the stuff that makes up the best small-town fairs.
Marcus has about 1,000 residents and I grew up on a farm about five miles north, where I lived until I was 18 and went away to college. I moved to the East Coast when I was 22, so for 30-plus years I’ve returned annually — most often during fair time.
I want to thank the people of Marcus for working hard to create such a memorable event for so many of us — a night that ran so smoothly without long lines or traffic jams. The weather, which has been very hot and unpredictable this summer in the Midwest, even cooperated with a cool breeze, low humidity and stars.
I feel lucky to have grown up in a town like Marcus — a town that has such heart and pride, a town that continues to fight to stay alive despite the demise of the family farm and a way of life that’s quickly disappearing.
It was difficult leaving Marcus this year. I knew this was possibly my last visit to my parents’ home in town. My dad turned 85 while I was home, and my mom passed away two years ago. The house is becoming more and more of a challenge for him.
By this time next year, my father may be living with my sister and her husband in a different small town. And I know that would be a good thing, especially during the long Iowa winters. His house in town — which once belonged to his grandparents — will be emptied (quite a project, to be sure) and sold.
And after more than 100 years, there will be no more Meylors in Marcus. There will be no place to call home in a place that has always given me strength and roots.
It reminds me of the first time I went home after moving to New Jersey with my husband. It was September: my first vacation from my new job and a trip by myself because we couldn’t afford two tickets.
I remember seeing the Iowa countryside from the airplane for the first time in my life. The checkerboard of golden fields was so beautiful that I was crying like a baby by the time I landed in Des Moines. I’m sure the people on my flight thought I was coming home for a funeral, and my sister, Nancy, must have thought I was a blubbering fool.
So, that’s why I want to thank the people of Marcus. You gave me — and some 800 other alumni — a night to remember. And even if there’s no Meylor house on a tree-lined street near the high school, Marcus will still be home to me.