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Coming home: Rutledge plans big Homecoming weekend

The small town of Rutledge has some very big plans in the works for the weekend of April 25 and 26, as the town will celebrate its first ever Rutledge Homecoming. This is in response to Gov. Bob Riley’s Rural Action Commission Committee’s declaration of 2010 as “The Year of the Small Towns,” a project begun to promote tourism in an 11-county region, which includes Crenshaw County.

“We are so excited about promoting our town and the wealth of history and treasures we have in Rutledge,” Homecoming Committee Chairman Beth Rogers said. “We decided to go ahead and get a jump on things and hold the Homecoming this year so we could work out any problems that might arise before next year’s celebration.”

The towns that participate in next year’s events will get a free historical marker, with Rutledge working on one for Rutledge Primitive Baptist Church.

Saturday’s events will take place at the Rutledge Town Hall, starting at 9 a.m., when local artisans will demonstrate their skills. Holly Fox, who has been caning chairs for over 25 years, will provide a first-hand look for visitors. Also, Eva Ray Adkison will have a display of her bonnets, birdhouses, and other crafts.

Kathryn Tomlin, Cheryl Bagents, and Ann Hilburn will also be demonstrating their smocking, crocheting and quilting skills.

Kayo Sipper has enlisted the help of Matthew Pippin and his Luverne High School members of the Junior Historical Society to demonstrate crosscut sawing, shucking and shelling corn, and other skills used in early pioneer days.

“These activities will offer ‘hands-on’ and supervised opportunities for children to learn some of the chores of their grandparents,” Rogers said.

S&S Cabinets will have woodworking items for children to finish and carry home, and the Rutledge Fire Station will be open during the day to give tours and allow children to have their pictures made with the fire trucks. The fire department will have hamburgers, hotdogs, and chicken plates available for purchase at noon on Saturday. The Crenshaw County Mission Team, who will be going to Ecuador this year, will have cakes and pies for sale, as well as other foods for snacks and supper.

The Crenshaw County Historical Society will also offer for sale “The Rutledge Primitive Baptist Church: In the Beginning,” a short history researched and written by Rutledge native and committee member Clara Turner, and printed in the society’s quarterly bulletin.

According to Turner, many former residents of Rutledge have been contacted and have provided pictures to be displayed throughout the weekend.

“Two long burlap murals will display pictures of businesses, homes, churches, and people in Rutledge during the years of 1866-1892, when Rutledge was the county seat of Crenshaw County,” Turner said. “A collage of pictures taken in the 1940s and 1950s will remind us of our own experiences in Rutledge, and we will be remembering many Rutledge people and businesses that served us well, but are no longer with us—like Melvin Tally’s nationwide honeybee business and Boots Johnson’s Farm and Ranch Supply for area farmers.”

On Saturday at 5 p.m., Regina Grayson will give a Sacred Harp singing lesson inside the church, followed by an old-fashioned bluegrass jam session at 6 p.m.

“Everyone is invited to bring a lawn chair to sit around the town hall as local musicians make music together,” Rogers said. “Anyone who plays or sings is encouraged to bring an instrument and join in.”

The Rutledge Inn is offering a discount for the Rutledge Homecoming weekend. When visitors make reservations or register, Turner said, they need to mention the homecoming to receive the discount rate. The inn’s phone or fax number is 334-335-3050.

On Sunday morning, April 26, everyone is invited to a community church service starting at 11 a.m. at the old Rutledge Primitive Baptist Church. Retired Pastor Flynn Gregory, who grew up in Rutledge, will deliver the message, with pastors from local churches also participating in the service. Folklorist Jack Solomon, whose grandmother was a member of the church until her death in 1941, will narrate and present a “foot-washing” he filmed at the church in the 1970s.

“Sunday’s interdenominational worship service will be one of celebrating together our common Christian heritage, as well as honoring all those of ‘the Primitive faith and order’ who worshipped at the church from1886 to its closing in 1997,” Turner said. “Everyone is invited to bring lunch to share an old-fashioned dinner-on-the-ground following the service.”

The New Vision Gospel group from McKenzie, Ala., will sing at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, and the Conecuh River Blue Grass Gospel group from Castleberry, will begin at 2:30.

“Whether Rutledge was your ‘home’ at one time or not, we want everyone to come join us that weekend,” Rogers said.

A few booths are still available at no charge to area residents who would like to demonstrate or display their handwork, art, or other craft.

For more information about available booths, contact Beth Rogers at 334-335-5462.