SIKESTON - A little pride and self-respect can go a long way and no one believes that more than the organizers of Return to Sunset Reunion Day.
Created last year in an attempt to do away with what some describe as apathy and lack of community involvement, the idea is to unite both current and former residents of the community and help them realize how much they have to be proud of.
This year's day-long celebration is planned from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 31. A parade will begin at 10 a.m., with the line-up set for 8 a.m. in front of the Westend Missionary Baptist Church on Maude Street.
Afterward everyone is invited to Roberta Rowe Park where the festivities will continue. The day's events will include beauty pageants for infants to teens, games, recognition for the community's senior citizens, guest speakers including Peter Myers and James Wilder and musical entertainment by various individuals and groups.
There will also be food and lots of it since everyone is asked to bring their own along with tents or canopies, lawn chairs, blankets, barbecue grills, coolers and anything else they think might come in handy during the day.
An estimated 300 people attended the first Return to Sunset Reunion Day and Everlean Brown and Walter Bowden are hoping for an even bigger turnout this time around.
"It's an annual event to bring the community together," said Bowden. "Anything that happens negative in the surrounding area people consider it the Sunset community and that's not true. We have had a bad image in the community for years and this event is something to give it a good image. It's an event for people to socialize, get people together, get to know each other and to show some love among each other."
"We lock our doors at night and get up in the morning, get cleaned up, get in our cars and go to work just like everyone else does," noted Louis Wiggins, who moved to Sikeston in 1946. "We have lots of young people who do that every day and the stigma is not fair to them. We want to bring back the pride in our community, that's what this event is all about."
Brown added much of the negativity that goes on in the Sunset community has nothing to do with those from Sikeston. "It's people who have moved here from other areas and if people would pay attention they'd see that it's not Sikestonians doing these things. That's why we want to put our residents back together," she stressed. "It's all about socializing and bringing everybody back together from years ago," said Brown, who along with Bowden was born and raised in the Sunset community.
"After high school people really don't get together until funerals and this way they can do it now," she said. "Last year the remarks we heard were that they enjoyed it and couldn't believe it was happening. We had people tell us they had been trying to contact different friends for years and couldn't. I think everybody walked throughout the park with pads and pencils, exchanging addresses."
And for those not quite ready to call it a day, the event will continue with a social complete with dancing from 8 p.m. to midnight at the Clinton Community Building at the Sikeston Sports Complex.
"It will be inside so everybody can cool out," Bowden said. "The next day we're asking everybody to visit their home church and we ask that the church recognize them. We're going to have a good time this year. I'm most excited about the community involvement which has been more so than it was last year. They are really looking forward to this event and that's one of the main purposes of this."