Bishop Hill is small in size – just a half mile wide. The population hovers around 125, but the spirit that drives folks here to celebrate the past is enormous. I am not an Old Settler and do not belong to the Association. But each fall when the group members assemble from all over the country to picnic, give speeches, perform skits, and walk the cemetery, I take a moment to reflect on past generations in my own family tree and give thanks for their sacrifices that built the scaffold on which I live a rich and beautiful life today.
Old Settlers’ Day 2011 marked the 165th anniversary of the Bishop Hill Colony as well as the 115th year of the Old Settlers’ Association. A grand celebration was held throughout the village including a Founders Parade. Elected Officials waved and tossed candy, farmers drove their restored antique tractors through town, businesses and organizations sponsored floats that depicted historical scenes. I stood roadside and cheered. Click here for a short parade video.
To those who have never lived in a small community, I’m not sure I can fully convey the harmony and solidarity created by such an event. The warm embrace of society makes me feel as if I’m in a movie. My ears strain to hear the soundtrack rising to meet the credits proclaiming: Noodle Salad Was Enjoyed By All! I acknowledge these fleeting moments as residual karma left by the wake of the utopians who struggled to build a better life here for themselves and their descendants. The experience gives me the strength to face the larger world and all its uncertainties. Next week the usual disputes will arise again in Bishop Hill and cooler winds will blow. But for now we are all smiling at friends and neighbors and life is good. What a wonderful day in the neighborhood!