SUTHERLAND — The long weekend marks the celebration of Labor Day in Sutherland and organizers are ready for a busy schedule.
The Church of Christ has long helped lead the Eternal Party. Pastor John Erickson is hoping for a full festival after last year was held back by COVID-19.
“Even last year we had some really good numbers at our event,” Erickson said. “But it’s fuller. There is more going on.
On the congregation’s agenda is the 5K run / walk this morning (Saturday, September 4) and the pancake breakfast on Labor Day morning. Breakfast will benefit Noah’s Day Care, which is run by the Church of Christ and is being expanded into the old Masonic building and the nearby wasteland.
The church is also bringing the Larry DeLawder family for three shows, one each day of the celebration. Larry DeLawder is a West Virginia-based artist known for his Barney Fife impersonation. The loud but clumsy MP – played by the late Don Knotts in “The Andy Griffith Show” – will perform in the city park. Other members of the DeLawder family – his wife Sara and daughters, Hannah and Faith – are part of the act.
Erickson said the actor is a good fit for Sutherland, sharing the spirit of Mayberry with a town of around 630 residents.
“We had it last year and it was a lot of fun,” Erickson said. “People really liked it. He’s very funny and it’s a very talented family.
One thing that won’t come back to the Labor Day celebration are the bounce houses, a last-minute change in the event’s itinerary.
Erickson said the “insurance snafus” made it impossible for them to be included in an updated policy. Although disappointed, he said, there will still be plenty of fun for the kids, including a foam bubble machine, which replaces inflatables, as well as carnival games and horse rides.
In addition, since the rental of the inflatable house is no longer in the books, activities for children will be free. Event planners, including Erickson, had planned to collect an entrance fee for the park’s festivities, so the cost came down to zero for young families.
“It will be a good weekend,” said the pastor. “We are really delighted that people who grew up here are coming home and that people from surrounding communities are coming to celebrate with us. It’s gonna be a good time.
The Willoway Complex is another organization heavily involved in the Sutherland Shindig.
The Senior Apartments and the Living Center will host a pair of fundraising meals. The $ 6 dinner on September 4 will feature burgers, hot dogs and sweet corn. The September 6 midday meal will feature breakfast burritos for $ 3 and bowls of rice for $ 5.
Willoway manager Mark Cody said the burritos had been popular at previous charity events and that he was proud of the homemade tortillas his team made for them.
The meals will be used to improve the swimming area of the center for the elderly, which needs a new heater and dehumidifier. The original machine was installed by the Sutherland Ruritan Club in 1996.
“We kept it running for that long, but it finally gave way and there’s not really a fix,” Cody said.
A craft fair is new this year at Willoway. Scheduled for most of Labor Day, the craft show has at least 10 vendors lined up, Cody said, and will feature woodworking, knitting and other trinket projects.
The director said the craft fair will provide a low-energy alternative to older Labor Day celebration attendees.
“I wanted to do something else for the people – say, 50 and over who don’t have kids playing in the park – they can come here and look at crafts and see what we have for sale,” did he declare.
Cody said it is shaping up to be a busy time for the Willoways and he looks forward to the community having a chance to come together.
“It’s going to be a great weekend,” Cody said. “Not a lot of rain and it must be cool so I hope it’s a good weekend.”
The National Weather Service forecast showed sunny skies in Sutherland with highs below 80 degrees for the three days of the long weekend. This balmy weather can be enjoyed by parade participants on September 6.
There are no pre-registrations for the march, but Sharon Flinders, a member of the parade committee, estimated there would be around 75 to 100 entries, up from around 60 last year. She said she was “almost certain” the 2020 drop was due to the pandemic and she “expects a return to normal” for this year.
The parade route will begin on Waterman Street, descend Second Street and turn onto Ash Street.
“I just hope everyone can be outside like we’ve been doing the past few years,” Flinders said.
This article first appeared in the September 4, 2021 edition of The South O’Brien Sun.