As the Midwest Old Threshers campground becomes a town of its own in the week leading up to the Old Threshers Reunion, John Reeves, with the Fairfield Kiwanis, feels like its mayor.
For 30 years, Reeves has welcomed campers from near and far, veteran campers and new, to a relaxing week at the reunion. It?s a place where strangers immediately become neighbors, friends and even as close as family.
The atmosphere on the Old Threshers campground is historical in and of itself. ?It?s the whole old-fashioned farm thing. It?s just like a Mayberry town,? said Kim Hill, of Wayland, referring to the Andy Griffith Show.
?I think it?s probably like the old times,? said Ruth Hasloy, of Searsborough. ?In the ?50s, everybody knew everyone, and if they didn?t, they found a time to get to know you.?
The same is true on the Old Threshers grounds. Ruth and her husband, Wayne Hasloy, were surrounded on all sides of their camper by friends from 50 years of camping at the reunion. It?s a space where the couple can shake off the business of their daily life and recall aspects of their childhood.
During the Reunion, Wayne could watch the log-sawing show all day ? and he has before. As a child, his neighbor used to do it too, and it always fascinated him.
Ruth likes to walk through the swap tents. The most treasured item she brought home throughout the years was a great big rocking chair, which the couple packed into their jeep and pulled behind their camper on their return trip home.
The Hasloys, Darrin and Billie Bruegge, of Fairfield, are new to camping out at Old Threshers. This is the couple?s sixth year grilling out, kicking back and brushing off everyday life during the week of the Reunion.
Garage sales and swap tents are the number one thing on Billie?s mind. As a U.S. Postal Service carrier, she is on the lookout for vintage items related to her profession. One year, she came across a vintage mailbox, which she now keeps in her house.
Not all campers are as celebratory, however. This is the second Reunion Mike and Lisa Cline, of Fairfield, have spent camping without the company of their dear friend Becky Roulett, who died from cancer.
Roulett is the one who first invited the Clines out to camp at the Reunion with her and her family. They used to reserve sites close to each other, doing things together as families. Lisa said they were just ?stuck together? throughout the years.
Now, Lisa finds ways to honor her departed friend by doing activities at the Reunion she knows Roulett loved and eventually donating a tractor in her honor. ?That?s the project next,? Lisa said.
Not only is the campground a place for families, it?s a place for friends too. Kathy Stegall, of Cole Valley, Ill., and Victoria Wildermuth, of East Moline, Ill.,have been coming to the Reunion together for six or seven years, and have been friends for over 20.
The first Old Threshers Reunion the friends attended wasn?t as spectacular as they hoped, however. Traveling to Mt. Pleasant for a Willie Nelson concert, the weather was cold, wet and the ground was muddy. Wearing T-shirts and sandals was definitely the wrong choice of clothing for the weather and the two desperately searched for sweatshirts to put over their wet clothes.?It was worth it though,? Stegall said.
?This is home away from home,? Wildermuth added.