Montevallo’s Bicentennial Celebration

IMG_20170909_122427_251I’m currently attending the University of Montevallo for my last year of graduate school. By the time I graduate in May 2018, I will have spent 5.5 years living in the small town of Montevallo, in the dead center of the state of Alabama. I’ve learned a lot about the town in the past several years, but it really became my town when I moved to my first apartment to live here full-time in May 2016. I’m going to go over a bit of the history of the town first, and then go over my experience at the birthday celebration.

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Montevallo is a very small town. The University of Montevallo, Alabama’s only public liberal arts school, has about 3,000 students enrolled. In comparison, the town of Montevallo has a population of just over 6,000 people. The campus is literally worth half of the town’s population (although I’m sure they’re not counted towards the population, since the majority of students live in the dorms and as such aren’t technically Montevallo citizens). The mayor of Montevallo is Hollie Cost, and she’s also an education professor at the university.

If you want to read more about Montevallo, I’d suggest checking out the Wikipedia page. It’s full of a ton of information that I don’t want to just repeat here. (Plus, it’s fun to learn new things, and you might end up in a Wikipedia spiral and end up reading about how everything’s made from gnomes in just a few hours!) Or you can check out the city’s official website. Did you know we’re sister cities with Echizen, Japan? It all started out because of pottery – we have our own kiln here on campus, and Echizen has sent us several pieces of their renowned pottery, which is on display in City Hall.

The Wikipedia page says Montevallo was settled in 1815 and incorporated in 1848, but don’t let anyone at the celebration today hear you say that! Interestingly enough, because of Montevallo’s location at the dead center of Alabama, it was almost chosen as the location for the University of Alabama (one of the two major colleges in the state). Instead, UA was founded in Tuscaloosa (about an hour away), and the Alabama Girl’s Industrial School was established here in 1896 instead. This would become the University of Montevallo in 1968.

78e3370c234fab9698bbbf7d03681be9Because of its age, the University of Montevallo also has several ghost stories to its credit. There’s the tale of Mr. King, who wanders campus with a shovel and lantern looking for his lost gold. If you smell kerosene, that means he’s near. There’s Mrs. King, who apparently guards King House at night and is somewhat of a malevolent spirit — or it could be the apparition of the slave girl Mrs. King (reputedly) beat to death one night. The most famous ghost, however, is the ghost of Condie Cunningham, the girl who accidentally set herself on fire in her dorm room one night while making fudge. Reports of her face reappearing on her dorm room door even after it’s been replaced caused the wooden door to be replaced with a metal one, and the original wooden door is on display in the university library every Halloween.

Can you see why I love Montevallo? It’s got such a rich history (there was even a Civil War skirmish here), and the people who live here are fantastic. The best place in Montevallo, Eclipse Coffee & Books, shut down several months ago, but it will forever hold a place in the hearts of those who knew it.

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The Bicentennial Bash started at 10:00 sharp. My roommate and I walked to Orr Park, the location of the Bash, at about 10:20. Upon our arrival at 10:30, we found the place to already be swarming with people. The Facebook Event page had said they were expecting about 1,000 people to show up today, and I would believe it.

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Orr Park consists of a looped path with two playgrounds and several recreational fields. There were artists set up all along the path selling everything from wood carvings to jewelry to cheese to vegan nail polish. (I ended up buying a pair of earrings for a friend’s upcoming birthday, as well as a set of Montevallo note cards that I’m going to frame and hang on my wall.) Sarah and I wandered the loop and checked out the booths (I got a cheese sample!), then headed through the carnival section to look at the attractions (all for little kids, mind you), and then it was time for lunch. We both ended up at the Full Moon BBQ food truck. I got a barbeque chicken sandwich, chips, and a cookie for my lunch and bought a bottle of water at another food station.

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After lunch, we wandered the booths again, to see if we’d overlooked anything the first time around. There were also rows and rows of classic cars (about 150 of them, if I read the plaque cards in the windows correctly!), all of them with their hoods open so people could see how they ticked. Several of them were for sale. I called my dad to see if he wanted to come down and see the old cars, but he didn’t answer. (I’d asked my mom weeks ago to see if she wanted to come down for the event, but this was her Saturday to work at the library. I should’ve asked her to ask off for the day. I asked off weeks ago.)

20170909_113253The one thing I regret not doing is painting my hand and putting it on the cement block outside the park’s entrance bridge. (That’s it in the first picture on this page.) I was pleasantly surprised by everything Montevallo pulled together for this program. I’m excited to see what the future holds for me. I’ve got only eight months left in this little college town (May 5, 2018 is my graduation date!), and I intend to enjoy them to the fullest.

Why do you like your town? Does your college have anything special about it? Let me know!

And as always, keep reading.

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