This marks the 14th year that Mrs. Ida Mae Smiles has organized the “It’s a Celebration!” black history event at the Newton County Historical Park.
This year’s event will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17, in the one-room schoolhouse beside the museum, 121 N. Washington St., in Neosho.
There will be singing by the Neosho Second Baptist Choir, and the special speaker will be Curtis Gregory from the George Washington Carver National Monument. In the past, as I listened in quiet appreciation at the back of that old schoolhouse, I’ve heard poetry recitations and special solos, in addition to the Second Baptist Choir. I enjoy that choir. Sometimes the choir is accompanied by piano or other instruments. Oftentimes they sing a cappella. Sometimes a tambourine marks time somewhere in the audience. It has been one of my favorite experiences at that schoolhouse throughout the years.
The historical society doesn't really have a lot to do with organizing the event. All we do is provide a location and refreshments. The real pusher behind this event each and every year is Ida Smiles. It’s something I know from various conversation it means a lot to her — and to a lot of other folks too.
I encourage you to come on out next Sunday, have a seat, and just listen in. Or, better yet, take part.
I think you’ll be glad you did.
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Next month, in March, the Newton County Historical Society is highlighting a special antique tool display. So, if you like old tools, many of which have been out of common use for the better part of a century, you may want to attend. I’ll have more on this later.
Wes Franklin serves on the Newton County Historical Society Board of Directors. He is also public relations director and events coordinator for the City of Neosho. Contact him at 658-8443.