published Sunday, May 29th, 2011

Ringgold’s spirit shines at 1890s Day Jamboree

By Timothy Bradfield
Ringgold, Ga., Mayor Joe Barger tosses candy from his seat in the 1890s Days Jamboree parade Saturday while Jan Jay drives.
Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Ringgold, Ga., Mayor Joe Barger tosses candy from his seat in the 1890s Days Jamboree parade Saturday while Jan Jay drives. Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press

RINGGOLD, Ga.—In the hot morning sun, Sara Gentry strolled along Nashville Street in downtown Ringgold, eating a frozen treat from a cup. The Fort Oglethorpe resident said she’s a regular visitor to the 1890s Day Jamboree, an annual festival now in its 36th year.

But Gentry was especially eager to attend the event this year, she said, because of the trauma the city has experienced since being hit by last month’s deadly tornadoes.

“To say we know what you are going through,” she said. “It’s a way to show support.”

Many of Saturday’s festivalgoers parked their cars in the Ringgold United Methodist Church parking lot, just a stone’s throw from an entrance to the event. They were greeted by the sounds of pounding hammers as men repaired the roof of the church, which was damaged in the storm.

“It’s not a normal situation,” church member Gary Knowles said, pointing out a contrast.

People are out for a festival, he said. “But at the same time they’re walking by devastation.”

Both sides of Nashville Street were lined with dozens of vendors selling arts and crafts and all kinds of food.

Even the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides disaster recovery services, had a tent set up to provide information on assistance.

“That way we can reach more people,” FEMA representative Magda Reyes said.

The April 27 tornadoes that plowed through Ringgold took eight lives and damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes. Dozens of businesses also were hit, as were Ringgold Middle and Ringgold High schools.

Because of that, Gentry said she had wondered if the city would cancel the jamboree. But she’s glad it’s business as usual.

Although there are miles to go on the road to recovery, she said, in the meantime, the two-day event will help with the healing process.

“You see people with smiles on their face,” Gentry said. “Ringgold has a spirit, and their spirit still lives.”

Contact Timothy Bradfield at timothyb2101@gmail.com.

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