Most anyone around Winnsboro can find my friends and me walking down Congress Street on Saturday. Heading towards the Clock, we normally make a pit-stop by Mr. Sam’s candy store. He greets each of us, and calls us by name. We’ll buy too much candy for our own good, and head to our next stop. After we take our stroll, we get in our car, put the windows down, turn the music up, and cruise our town. We join the slow lull of the few cars out, and just take in everything Winnsboro has to offer.
Driving around, we wave at almost everyone. Winnsboro has a way of connecting each and every one of us. Only people from Winnsboro understand that. Winnsboro can be the stereotypical small town, but it’s much more. The people here can always depend on friends, neighbors, public figures, small business owners, and even the kindness of strangers. Whether we realize or not, we are all connected. Even having the public schools, and the private, most have the same plans. On Fridays during the fall, all the traffic in town will be heading to a football game, whether it is Richard Winn, or the Griffins. On Saturdays, most make it easy, and do some “small business Saturday” shopping, or like my friends and me, just drive around. Sundays, almost every person in Winnsboro will be in church. We all know how important faith is in such a small, close town.
Living in a small town has been such a blessing. Winnsboro has offered me many opportunities that I would not get anywhere else. The events that the town plans help me grow as a person. Just recently, students at Fairfield Central High School and Richard Winn Academy were presented the opportunity to come together at “Spirit Fest 2013.” As a cheerleader, I loved being a part of that. It was enriching to meet the other student athletes and hear about their upcoming seasons. Because we have people that care about the youth enough, we were afforded that chance to see old friends and to create new ones. Another personal example is the “Miss Rock Around The Clock” pageant. I was lucky enough to begin my pageant career with them, and also end it. The pageant gave me the confidence I needed to accomplish other feats in life, like speaking in public and not being afraid to meet new people. Not only were the pageants a positive, life-enriching experience, but I was lucky enough to have won two titles. Through my experience as “Miss Rock Around The Clock,” I met many people that have become close friends, gained confidence, and allowed me to give back to my community.
The connection in the community carries from generation to generation. My mother has been a teacher in the Fairfield County School system for thirty-four years. Needless to say, she has her fair share of students. It never fails that a former student sees her and comes to speak if she is somewhere in town. She even sees generations go through her gymnasium. She has students now whose parents were former students. My mom enjoys talking with old students, and she could not have that opportunity in a big town, or somewhere other than Winnsboro.
People in Winnsboro are forever connected. In April of 2012, people of the “Mill Village” organized and helped a “Winnsboro Mill Village” reunion. Those who grew up in the village area, and surrounding came together to rekindle and reconnect with old friends, neighbors, and even family. The turnout was enormous, with just over 2,000 in attendance. There were a few natives that wondered off to the hills of California and the city life of Pennsylvania that came back to Winnsboro. As far as California, or out to Texas, or up to Pennsylvania, the people of Winnsboro are forever connected.
As a senior in high school, I realize my time in Winnsboro is becoming limited. I realize that this time next year I will not be here. I will not have the comfort of driving around when things get tough. I will not have another football season at home, another chance at high school, even. What I will have is what matters most. I will have the Herald Independent to give me the high school scores. I can come home to my friends and drive around with them, and the comfort of coming home to Winnsboro. And best of all, I will have the Winnsboro family supporting my every step, and I feel that Winnsboro is a home that everyone should feel that they can come back to. I consider my hometown a blessing. The connection will always be there. But for now, I savor every ounce of what my town, Winnsboro, has to offer before I depart for college. I can go by the candy store one last time. I can take one last drive through town, and I can have one last look at my home, community, and school.
Anna Gray Walters is a senior at Richard Winn Academy