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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Survival of town celebrated

Friday, September 23, 2005

Bill Bailey, chairman of the Board of Trustees for Commerce, stands with the only unobstructed view of the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Memphis, Tenn., behind him.
COMMERCE - While the discussion continues on rebuilding New Orleans, the people of Commerce are celebrating the survival of their town a decade after the flood of 1995.

Scheduled for today through Sunday this year, the Floodfest was organized by the late Jack Carson High Sr. and held for the first time in 1996 to "boost morale and let everybody know the town wasn't completely washed away," according to Bill Bailey, chairman of Commerce's Board of Trustees. "This year is the 10th anniversary of the flood - next year is the 10th anniversary of Floodfest."

Like most of the remaining residents of Commerce, High believed there was too much history in Commerce to allow it to become a wetland through federal buyouts.

High started the Commerce Historical Society and Museum and, along with his wife, Dixie, and local business owners Jerry and Joannie Smith, started the town's tourism organization and began marketing Commerce as a place to see the Mississippi River in its most natural state.

It was during a tourism meeting that the head of the state tourism organization suggested an annual event called "The Commerce Floodfest."

One of the town's newest residents, although the house he lives in has been in wife's family "since it was built in 1902," Bailey, has served as mayor for the town since April.

Bailey said he believes the town is divided on whether they would like to see a floodwall or levee erected or keep their unobstructed view of the river. Several of the homes remaining on the side of town closest to the river's banks have their own miniature flood walls surrounding them.

While the population isn't exactly booming, Commerce is still here. "We're trying to come up with grant money to get the infrastructure of the town up," Bailey said.

He also noted the Commerce City Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places Feb. 2. "There seems to be a little more spring in everybody's step, a little excitement," he said.

Floodfest 2005 will begin at 5 p.m. today with barbecue and beer available from the Corner Bar and Grill.

Highlights for the evening include pageants beginning at 6 p.m. and live music by Classy Chassy Country. "The band goes till midnight," Bailey said.

Saturday things get started early with the Commerce Floodfest Car Show accepting registrations from 9-11 a.m. Prizes will be awarded at 3 p.m.

There will also be remote control car races from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. and a horseshoe tournament. "It starts and noon and goes until we have a winner," Bailey said. "It's double elimination."

The St. Paul United Methodist Church, which is celebrating 180 years in Commerce this year, will hold a chicken and dumpling dinner from 10:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Activities continue Sunday at 11 a.m. One of the more exciting events to watch will be a lawn mower race scheduled for 1:30 p.m. "It's a circle track. Those things are pretty wild," Bailey said. "With all this flood land we have plenty of room and have one of the largest circle tracks."

Karaoke contests will also be held beginning at 3 p.m. with ages 4-12 and continuing past 4 p.m. when the 19 and over crowd begin.

The last event for the weekend is the mule jump beginning at 5 p.m. which Bailey said it is definitely worth hanging around for. "They're jumping five, six feet in the air over a high jump," he said.

Dozens of other activities will take place during the weekend, most of which can all be found at Commerce City Park within view of the Mississippi River.

For more information call 264-3900.