SIKESTON -- Sikeston will play an important role in this year's Wyatt Old Timers Club reunion.
"We are the product of children that were born in Wyatt, Wilson City, Charleston, Sikeston and the surrounding communities -- Rush Ridge, Pinhook, East Prairie, Wolf Lake, Bird Mills," explained Doris Holman Richardson, business manager for the club and one of the key organizers for this year's event. "We all come back once a year for a reunion and it's been going on for 38 years. Larry Stringfellow is the president of this organization."
Richardson said the group got its start at Viola Foster's cafe in Wyatt where the locals would regularly gather to visit.
"Then when some started growing up and leaving they would always come back to Ms. Fosters, so they decided to form a reunion," she said. "The people that left, they always met up at Miss Fosters on Labor Day."
The annual reunion soon expanded to include those from other Mississippi County communities.
"It's steadily growing, steadily increasing, and we don't miss a year," Richardson said. "This year is going to be a banner year for us."
This year's reunion is scheduled for Friday through Sunday.
"Our theme for this year is, 'Revisiting the past, embracing our future,'" Richardson said. "The reason for that theme is that's what we do. We have great history there, and we go back to reminisce."
While many recall struggles during their time here, the reunion is upbeat. Children are taken for tours to give them a look at their roots while reminding them that "education is the key to success and to strive for excellence," Richardson said.
She described it as "a gathering of family and friends from one generation to another, and we have a wonderful time."
In addition to visiting homes of those who still live in the communities they were raised in and sharing meals, this year's reunion participants also have a banquet scheduled for them Saturday at the Sikeston Armory.
"It's a black tie event this year," Richardson said. "We're expecting about 500 people for this dinner alone."
She said everyone from the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Chamber of Commerce to the mayor have extended their welcome for the event and have been very helpful.
"We really appreciate them recognizing us," Richardson said. "They knew that this is good business for Sikeston."
The Wyatt Old Timers stay in the local hotels and love to browse the local stores, Richardson said.
"Sikeston is our major hub, and we try to use the businesses in Sikeston," she said. "The women shop like you would not believe."
Golfers from the group are planning to play a round of golf together at the Bootheel Golf Club. "There should be around 30-35 of them," Richardson said.
As part of their effort to give something back to the communities they came from, the Wyatt Old Timers established the Charles L. Harris Scholarship for students in this area.
"We always award two scholarships each time we come," Richardson said.
This year's scholarship awards will be announced during Saturday's banquet.
The banquet will also include a performance by the Opportunity Church of God in Christ.
"It's going to demonstrate how we survived," Richardson said. "Then its going to follow with where we are today. We've gone on to get our masters, we've gone on to get our Ph.D.s. Our children have gone on to be successful and we want to encourage them to excel."
While the group's existence has pretty much been a "well-kept secret" for the first 37 years, according to Richardson, the group is now being recognized -- and not only by local community leaders and agencies.
"The governor has sent a proclamation as well as a letter recognizing the Wyatt Old Timers legacy," she said.