Our little town enjoys an amazing park system, thanks to the foresight of city park leadership over the years. One of our city's public treasures is our historic riverfront trail running parallel for a few miles with the Mighty Missouri River. Well used, the trail is a great place for hiking, biking and nature enthusiasts.
In between thunderstorms, floods, tornados, heat waves, and earth quakes, our annual Rotary Riverfront Trail Day actually came off on the scheduled date this year. Some would call that a miracle. We were especially blessed with a warm, but breezy, day.
The Rotary Riverfront Trail Day is put on especially for those who cannot otherwise enjoy the riverfront trail due to physical restrictions. This festive event was born out of wistful conversations between friends, Barb and Sharon, that I'm told went something like this. "Wouldn't it be great if elderly members of our community could enjoy the riverfront trail like the rest of us?" And, then these Can Do Gals proceeded to make it happen, partnering with the Rotary Club, City Parks Department and the community at large. The event has gained momentum and is now penciled into community and citizen calendars for years to come.
Riverfront Trail Day features guided tram tours of the trail, bingo with fun prizes, live music, historical photographs, local historians and naturalists on hand to share their knowledge, barbequed hot dogs and hamburgers, ice crème sundaes, and soft drinks, all free, thanks to generous donations.
This year the park was filled with hundreds of grateful guests, comprised of senior citizens, nursing home residents, and disabled individuals of all ages. Volunteers from local schools and the community at large dedicated the better part of a day to help guests feel appreciated and make sure that their every wish was fulfilled.
While all the other volunteers were cooking, serving food, transporting guests in golf carts, conducting tours, handling volunteer groups, and coordinating the many activities involved, I had the best job of all. I got to go round and visit with our guests. I think we all managed to do that in between other responsibilities, but I made this my main job. I was able to give guests my undivided attention, and what I received in return is indescribable. But, I'll still give it a shot.
I spotted Lily sitting alone, enjoying a nice breeze. A lovely elderly woman, Lily spoke with a slight accent. She told me that she and her late husband had just celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. He passed in November, and she sure missed him, but was grateful for all of the years they had together. They had met in her home town in England, during the war, and were married when she was just 17. They had lived most of their life in Illinois, but moved to rural Franklin County after they retired. They built 3 homes together, farmed and gardened. She told me about each of her grandchildren and great grandchildren, and how she and her husband had lost one of their sons a few years back. She marveled at how fortunate she was to be able to live in the greatest country in the world. While her friends decided to listen to the heat alerts and stay home that day, Lily wasn't about to miss Riverfront Trail Day. It was her "favorite day of the year."
And, as I roved around visiting, the comment I heard most consistently was "this is my favorite day of the year. Thank you for helping to make it happen." Our beautiful park and trail may soon be overflowing with muddy Missouri River flood waters, but last Wednesday, it was overflowing with gratitude, as our community enjoyed one of its' "favorite days of the year."