We left home early Friday morning with a full car and travelled across north Indiana, through western Ohio to Versailles to visit Grandma and Grandpa Weaver and experience Poultry Days. We had left just as there was a thunderstorm blowing through our area, but once we got on the highway it had moved through and the drive was mostly rain-free. It is always an interesting drive regardless of the time of the year; in early summer, it is budding crops with baby cornstalks poking through the soil and old, established with names like Valparaiso, Plymouth, Warsaw, Columbia City, Fort Wayne, Van Wert, and Celina until we arrived in Versailles, Ohio. I have been driving the same route since we moved here twenty years ago and it remains largely unchanged. Each year famers plow, cultivate, plant, harvest the fields and the cycle continues year after year.
The closer we got to Versailles, the more excited William and Olivia got. Aunt Jill and Collette, Beth’s sisters, would be there and they would get to visit with their cousins. Aunt Jill was flying up from Houston for the weekend and Aunt Collette would come down Friday to visit, too. All of us were excited to get out of the car, especially Ivy, but here excitement was short-lived and we took her to the kennel to stay for our visit. She is just too spirited and full of energy for Grandma’s house! On Saturday afternoon, we would be attending Timmy’s high school graduation party at Uncle Tim and Kristin’s house. It would be a busy weekend.
Versailles is a small town of about 2,300 people. Beth was born in Greenville, the county seat and biggest town in the Darke County, and she grew up here and her mom and dad live in the same house they built in 1952. Their home, like the entire town, is comfortable, simple, and full of memories. We were married here – almost twenty years ago, this was the starting point for the Indy 500 (at least for the Weaver group), it is where we have celebrated Christmas, for as long as I can remember, and it is where William and Olivia were baptized. It is also the home of Poultry Days. Begun in 1951, the festival celebrates the town’s heritage in the poultry industry in Ohio. The town is home to an egg producer and marketer, Weaver Brothers, and egg-laying houses, other poultry related businesses. Poultry Days begins Friday night and lasts through Sunday evening. It has a parade on Saturday morning and rides, exhibits, and chicken, lots of it. It had been a few years since we had been to Poultry Days and it was as I remembered it. You could smell the chicken barbecuing and feel the excitement in the air.
Friday night we had our first chicken dinner and we ate all together – all of us. Grandma, grandpa, Aunt Jill, Aunt Collette, Beth, William, Olivia and I crowded around grandma’s kitchen table and ate, talked, and laughed. Beth is the baby in the family and Jill and Collette always add to the fun with their memories of growing up with Beth. Collette live just 30 or so minutes north of Versailles and we only see her when we visit Versailles. We see Jill when she visits Versailles, the cottage, or when we go to Houston to see my family. After dinner, we cleaned up and I took the kids to the pool. I chose to sit out and read. I got through a couple of chapters of Trouble by Gary D. Schmidt before thunder ended swimming for the night. We got on our bikes and pedaled home arriving just as the first drops pounded the pavement and the skies opened. We settled in for evening and before long all of us were fast asleep, it had been a busy day.
Saturday was the parade and the Timmy’s party. First, we had to have Sweet Shop rolls and breakfast. I slept late and walked into the kitchen with grandma, Aunt Jill, and Beth at the table had coffee and rolls and Olivia had milk and was enjoying her rolls, a brown-fried and a glazed doughnuts. The Sweet Shop, or Brown’s Sweet Shop and Bakery, is the town bakery, local gathering place and an institution in town. I have eaten a brown-fried every visit, since my first visit in ’84. They are delicious. And, so one of the things they look forward to is a visit to the Sweet Shop and a brown-fried. We got ready for the parade and I walked downtown with Jill, Beth followed, and the kids hopped on their bicycles to explore the town on their own. We had chairs holding our spot on Main Street it took less than ten minutes and we were there. It is a great spot. It is shaded and just before the reviewing stand. The parade is perfect small town America. The VFW and American Legion lead it followed by the Grand Marshall, high school bands, floats, businesses, tractors, and fire trucks from nearby towns. Grandpa was on a float celebrating past poultry Days Chairmen and Chairwomen; he served in 1960, and was Grand Marshall with grandma in 2004.
After the parade, Olivia pedaled over to Poultry Days, walked around, got chicken and lemonade shakeup and headed home. If you have never had one a lemonade shake up is the best summertime beverage I can think of: an entire fresh squeezed lemon – lemon and all, ice, water, and sugar all shaken and poured into a glass. Cool, refreshing, and delicious. We stopped at a booth and had our picture taken and pedaled home. When we got home, we ate our chicken and I lay down to read and ended up taking a short nap.
Before long, it was time for Timmy’s party. Uncle Tim and Aunt Kristin’ kids are older than William and Olivia and Timmy is their youngest had just graduated from high school. Both William and Olivia idolize their older cousins and it is fun to see them interact. Timmy will be heading off to Kenyon College in eastern Ohio this fall. He is a great kid and he will do well. I recognized many of the faces at the party and enjoyed visiting with Beth’s relatives and friends we knew from town and Beth growing up. William and Olivia seemed to enjoy themselves visiting with their cousins Alex, Molly, and Timmy, playing games on the lawn, and meeting new friends. It was a good time and before we knew it, it was time to home – or back to grandma’s.
Poultry Days isn’t Poultry days without a visit to the festival itself. There are the rides, fair-food, and fair games to be enjoyed and William and Olivia were not to be deterred. Aunt Jill took William and Olivia came with us. We got ride tickets and the first ride Olivia wanted to ride needed her to be one inch taller, but she could ride with an adult. I jumped on it and did not even have to pay! It was fun ride and we were whipped all over in a spinning ride called the Zipper. Olivia jumped off ready for the next ride and I stumbled off trying to get my legs back! We met up with William and Jill and then Olivia and William rode a couple of rides together before Olivia decided she wanted to ride the ‘Highflyer.’ She was tall enough to ride alone, which was fine with me; the ride actually goes upside down, not once but several times. Even William chose to watch. But, she rode it and hopped off screaming, “That was AWESOME!” in a way that was perfectly Olivia. We played the carnival game of sliding quarters hoping to win a fortune, and almost lost one. It was a fun night at Poultry Days and we walked back to the car, went home, climbed in bed, and fell fast asleep! All of us.
Sunday was a blur of visiting and helping Grandma and Grandpa with chores and odd jobs around the house. There was the antique car and tractor parade through town, which is always exciting, and more visiting. We had more chicken, it sure is good, and we went back for more for dinner and they were out, SOLD OUT, it was good for them, but bad for us. Sunday night, grandma and I watched the NBA FINAL game and rooted for the Mavs. The game was MAV-elous! Grandma and I cheered all the way to the end.
Monday was packing and finishing odds and ends, there is always so much we can do when we visit. I made an early morning trip to the Sweet Shop and brought home some rolls, which I might add disappeared quickly. Packing the car is never fun because it means we are headed home and back to responsibility. Olivia and I picked up Ivy at the kennels and she was so excited to see us. We walked her home to burn off some energy for the car ride, but as it turned out, it wasn’t necessary as she slept the whole way home and all through the night.
The drive home went well, the weather was beautiful, the traffic light, and we made good time. We pulled in the driveway just as the light began to fade and we were unloaded quickly. Ivy settled in on her pad and didn’t want to get up. She was there this morning when I came down for coffee and the start of the day. She is glad to be home as we all are. Olivia is off at softball camp at the high school, William and Beth are sleeping in, and it is a good thing. The last four days were great days and the forecast for today is a million and six times better. Making the Days Count, one day at a time.