Hopewell Filled with Cheers of Hooray on Festival Weekend
By Sarah Steele Wilson
Sep 24, 2012, 12:52
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson
The streets of downtown Hopewell were filled with cheers of “hooray” over the weekend as crowds of visitors turned out for the 34th annual festival celebrating the city.
Children squealed hooray as they enjoyed games, rides and face painting, music lovers called hooray as they listened to a roster of acts and shoppers cried hooray as they found the perfect items at the vendors’ tables that lined the streets.
And while he didn’t actually say “hooray,” heart patient Piolet Parham may have thought it when cardiologist Dr. Clifford Morris presented him with his white Jaguar.
“This man right here has done more for people in the community than I can possibly tell you,” said Morris, calling Parham to the microphone to discuss the struggles he faced after a 2004 attack left his heart functioning at 10 percent capacity.
Parham talked about the depression that almost overtook him after the health scare.
“I told Dr. Morris I felt like giving up on life,” he said.
Morris said that he asks patients to give as part of their treatment.
“We have our patients give back to the community,” he said. “That’s just as important as any medicine you can give.”
As Parham gave, by speaking to others in the community about the importance of health and an optimistic attitude, he began to recover.
“If I die tonight, I had a good time today,” he told the crowd. “I’m not going to die with a frown on my face.”
His smile widened even further when Morris surprised him by turning over the keys and deed to the car Parham had always admired to thank him for adhering to the prescription of community service.
“This is what happens when you give,” he said to his shocked patient.
A crowd of smiling Minds in Motion dancers lined Parham’s path to his new ride, which he took for a short test ride with his wife Victoria, son Isaiah and grandson Brian Drew before returning to the festival.
“We kind of inspired each other,” Parham said of his treatment with Morris. “He’s not just my Doctor. He’s my friend.”
He said that God gave him back his health so he could give to others and advised patients with heart problems to keep a positive attitude.
“LIfe goes on. Regardless of the situation, it will get better,” he said. “You send the prayers up, God will send the blessings down.”
Parham got his car after a spirited performance from Minds in Motion, a statewide elementary school dance movement sponsored, in Hopewell, by Morris.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson
The performance came after a morning of music provided by Sportsbar Rockstar, a band convened by Hopewell native Keith Horne, who has played with hit artists Trisha Yearwood, Tanya Tucker and Hot Apple Pie.
“I just got tired of being gone,” said Horne, who returned to the area after 25 years away, working a job that sometimes required over 200 days a year of touring.
“I got married to a girl I grew up on the same street with 35 years ago,” Horne said, describing his path back to his hometown.”I decided to move back, put this band together and we’re just working all the time.”
Horne said he even enjoys doing things like cutting the grass that he never did as a touring musician.
He remembers Hooray for Hopewell and similar events from his youth and played in the band Casper, a stalwart at outdoor festivals in the area, when he was still in high school.
“It’s nice being home,” he said. “I’m enjoying it.”
Also enjoying the day were the hundreds of people who walked the streets of Hopewell on Saturday and Sunday, munching on funnel cakes and visiting informational and commercial booths.
Mary Forbes, one of the festival co-chairs, said that the Hooray for Hopwell board of directors is proud that they’ve been able to keep the festival going in an age when small community fairs are going by the wayside.
“It’s important for a sense of community and hometown spirit,” she said.
Forbes, who has been co-chairing the festival for almost 20 years, said she’s hooked on the yearly event.
“I was practically born into it,” she said. “My mother has been a volunteer forever and ever.”
Forbes is just one of many who makes sure she keeps a spot open on her calendar for Hooray for Hopewell.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson
“I’ve come to everyone of them,” said Marie Walker, who was watching her six year old grandson Gabriel Rivera enjoy the jumping cable activity set up for children.
“Since I was his age,” elaborated Walker’s daughter Amanda Rivera, nodding toward her son.
Nearby, Kimberly Doxey was helping her 17-month-old son, Andrik Swan-Doxey, with a toy fishing game and enjoying a family tradition started by her mother, Betty Rackley Doxey, a native of Hopewell.
“I love it,”Rackley Doxey said of the festival surrounding her. “I’ve been on the phone all morning bugging people to get down here.”
Even though she comes every year, she particularly wanted her friends to join her downtown this year.
“It’s the best this year it’s been in awhile,” she said.
The festival may have gained a few more repeat attendees in the Wilburn family. James and Tessa Wilburn are service members at Fort Lee and were enjoying their first Hooray for Hopewell on Saturday.
“Family time,” Tessa said, describing the lure of the festival. “We wanted to spend time together as a family and get out of our normal routine.”
She said the daily grind didn’t always leave a lot of time for that.
“We’re having a terrific time,” she said. “The attitudes and courtesy of the staff is outstanding, which makes it great for us.”
Herbert Bragg, Director of Intergovernmental and Public Affairs for the city, said he was happy that the weather cooperated after wind and rain put a damper on last year’s festivities.
He said the local government supports the event, which fits in well with the city’s efforts to revive its struggling downtown area.
“It helps bring people downtown to see all the things we have,” he said.
Every year the festivities are put on by the board of directors, a small group of dedicated volunteers, who currently number 13, who stay up until the wee hours putting the finishing touches on the community get together.
“I was driving past here last night and people were here until all hours putting this thing together,” Morris said, noting that the spirit of “volunteerism” in Hopewell is strong.
“We still feel strongly about the community, the spirit of the community and being proud of our town,” Forbes said describing the motivating force behind the work she does every year.
On Sunday afternoon, the crowds were still heavy and the music was still going as visitors continued to line the streets.