Annual celebration raises funds to invest back into community projects
The 39th annual Conway Community Days in southern Laclede County, once called Conway Old-Fashioned Days, was held the second weekend of September 2017, in the small but active town of Conway, Mo.
“We changed the name from Conway Old-Fashioned Days several years ago because we didn’t like wearing those old-fashioned clothes for the whole weekend,” Ann Cunningham, this year’s parade chair, laughed. “Those long dresses are hot.”
Debbie Caffey, president of the Conway Community Advisory Council (CCAC) was in charge of the weekend’s festivities for the second year in a row, and she explained the origin of the celebration.
“It’s just good family-oriented fun and I’ve been in it, one way or another, since our first Old-Fashioned Days weekend in October 1979,” she explained. “Our original goal was to raise money for a community swimming pool. At that time, we were told there were grants available and our hope was to be awarded one of those. Instead, the grant money went to St. Louis and Kansas City groups, based on population numbers. After more research, we realized the construction and maintenance were beyond our reach financially.
“So, we bought our current Community Building and re-furbished it and also bought what was then the Alexander Service Station. We’ve made it into the permanent home for our Community Days carousel.”
“We bought the carousel, a 1940s model and have bought new horses and animals for it over the years,” Ann added. “We have bought windows for the senior citizens center, given money to the fire department, and provided a floor that was needed for the school. We are finally debt free now so we will be looking for new area needs to cover.”
Ann added that the weather was “just perfect” for the 2017 event.
“It was one of the best we’ve ever had,” Ann said. “Things went so smoothly as everyone did what they said they would and that made things go off without any hitches. We also had so many wonderful prizes donated by area businesses. That really keeps people interested and encourages them to stay longer since you have to be present to win at some of the drawings.”
While the event has removed “old fashioned” from it’s name, the festival has a hometown feel, complete with craft vendors, turtle races, root beer floats, music by local bands, dancing, craft vendors and Community Days royalty. Candidates are selected from students at the local Laclede County R-1 School District.
The annual parade draws a large crowd, and number of particpants; ranging from the local fire department and church youth groups, to tractors and mounted cowboys and cowgirls.
“We’ve seen some real changes over the nearly 40 years we’ve been doing this,” Debbie said. “For instance, when we started we didn’t have any food items and now we have lots of food booths, including those from outside vendors. We have entertainment both Friday and Saturday nights and during the day. This year that included the Truelove Quartet from Lebanon, Country Revue, Dave Perryman, the Wagon Wheelers and Chester Wood’s band.”
The population of the small Laclede County, Mo., town is less than 800, and the committee knows without the support of the local residents and businesses, the event would not be a success, nor would it be able to give back to the community.
“We so appreciate everyone’s help in making Conway’s Community Days celebration a great success,” Debbie said.