Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Hebron Crossroads 6-20-04
By Jeff Gill

Sunrise is now before 6 am; ‘tis Midsummer Night’s Eve made famous by the antics of Titania and Oberon in a Grecian wood, the magical time of the longest days of the year.

Tomorrow is the astronomical first day of summer, June 21, and with or without Shakespeare's influence they are turning out to be strange days, indeed. (If sprites and fairies are afoot in Dawes Woods, now celebrating a 75th anniversary as Dawes Arboretum, it would not surprise me in the least.)

More on just how strange life can be in coming weeks, but now, a long overdue look backwards, to a near-magical weekend in Canal Park.

From my point of view, the Crossroads Festival began with two boys on bikes, stopped and leaning forward on their handlebars, watching with rapt attention as the crew from Calliope Productions set up the Giant Slide on Friday.

Setting up the parking area provided by the Bowmans and Coughlin Chevrolet, I saw walking in from the bridge behind Hayman’s three young girls, high stepping through the grass, picking their way toward becoming the first “official” visitors to the carnival grounds.

Not far behind them, Helen Artz and Jean Houston came across the still bright white bridge, painted on Patriot’s Day last Sept. 11, walking past the Ohio outline flower bed also painted and recently renewed by Mary Alice Dernberger, who came along just after to shoot some pictures for her scrapbook of the Hebron festival back again from a long recess.

Scott Walters and his son Josh came by to offer a hand, and we fell to talking about the still-visible outline of the old interurban power plant in the ground nearby, and the near archaeological character of the lot, with dim traces of foundations and lanes just below the grown-over surface.

And I got another chance (not the last of the weekend!) to tell the story passed along to me by the McDaniels about the Madden girls climbing the smokestack, a hundred feet high with their long black skirts fluttering in that long-ago breeze.

Either the lights got brighter, or the day was darkening, when couples hand in hand started to appear with greater frequency; some couples looking too young to be in love and others old enough to know better, but all glad to be together on a cool night under starry skies.

Mrs. Weaver and her stalwart Student Leadership Council members from Hebron Elementary wove in and out of the rides and stands and booths, swapping out new trash bags for full ones from their containers. The roar of the main generator off the midway left many shouting their questions to each other; “Did you get that one?” “Which one?” “No, that one,” but they merrily kept up with their messy but necessary work.

As the clouds broke up with the setting of the sun, landing patterns at Port Columbus changed, bringing a steady parade of jets right across the sky over the crossroads, just under the waxing half moon from the southeast.

From Conestogas down the National Road in the same direction the airplanes echoed, crossed by the trickled tracing of the once important canal route, that feeling of intersection, of past and present crossing, even interrelating, was as visible as it was felt.

Some of those jets no doubt brought home returning soldiers, veterans newly minted, hoping like many vets before them that they might be the last to carry that proud title, hoping that their work overseas might bring us closer to the day when wars are no more.

I hope they looked down as evening fell on May 28, saw the spinning and rotating lights of a simple village festival, and remembered the boisterous peace and contented happiness of carnivals and circuses and cotton candy, a multicolored reflection of all they fought to protect, and to offer to others.

Life and liberty are blessings we know to cherish, but the pursuit of happiness can often confound us. Watching a family walk away from the grounds as night fell, Dad carrying a stuffed animal larger than either of the kids (and almost as big as Mom!) it seemed like Hebron had relearned what it meant to pursue happiness. . .and might even have caught it.

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and a proud officer of the Hebron Elementary PTO, which sponsored the Hebron Crossroads Festival. If you have news or stories about the pursuit of happiness in the Lakewood area, call 928-4066 or e-mail disciple@voyager.net.