The Murphy Theatre started to fill quickly. By showtime every single seat was taken. The grand old theatre was filled from the first front-row seat to the last seat in the back row of the balcony section. Many of the theatre-goers were wearing matching T-shirts to support their favorite dancer. Several were carrying signs and many had glow-sticks ready for waving. Anticipation and joy filled the air.
Standing up and looking around from seat 103 in row H, I saw smiles on every face. People were laughing and jostling in the aisles and along the rows as they sought out their seats. There was joy in the air and the show hadn’t even started.
Such was the atmosphere in the Murphy Theatre on Saturday night as we awaited the start of the second year of Dancing with the Clinton County Stars.
You could feel the anticipation of fun growing. People just love to have fun. Having fun is important.
When my Dad retired, after working 35-years at Delco Products in Dayton, he started focusing on having fun. He started playing golf every chance he had. He played for several senior league softball teams. Mom and Dad even moved south so they could extend their season for playing and having fun. Dad was able to spend a few extra months on the golf course and the softball diamond by moving to Florida.
One day, after being retired a few years, Dad told me that it had dawned on him that he was living his life in reverse.
In Breathitt County, in the hills of eastern Kentucky, he had no memory of playing. His earliest memories were of working. Dad grew up gathering coal, feeding animals, tending the garden and working in the fields. While kids in other parts of the country were playing tee-ball and hide-n-seek, Dad was helping the family survive by plowing the steep Kentucky hillsides with a mule. Using the same mule, Dad would haul a wooden sleigh filled with coal or firewood down a dry creek bed. He worked hard.
Play? At the end of the day, he was usually too tired to play. Then, finally, after 35 years at Delco, Dad retired.
Most people, if they were not from the hollers of eastern Kentucky, grew up playing and having fun. While Dad was busy working, youngsters in most small cities throughout Ohio, filled their days playing games in empty lots, riding bikes all around the countryside, tree climbing and playing freeze tag.
Playing and having fun are important. Stress management experts say that it is vital that people have at least one activity that they do regularly just for pleasure, just for fun, just for the pure enjoyment of the activity.
I think it is great that this community supports having fun. I have told the city staff that I’ll block a city street for any parade, dance or party. It is important that we look for any opportunity to celebrate; to have fun together.
We’ve been through a lot of tough times over the past several years. We’ve shown a lot of grit and we have survived when some other cities might have crumbled, but through it all we have supported each other. We look for opportunities to have fun with each other. Many organizations, particularly the staff of the Murphy Theatre and our Main Street Wilmington team work to support the community by finding reasons to celebrate.
Sometimes we celebrate just for the joy of celebration.
During the summer, we have a party in the Mural Parking Lot every third Friday. Music. Food. Beverages. But, the most important draw for our third Friday parties are the tables and chairs. It’s the opportunity to sit with friends, to talk and laugh, to have fun and to share that fun with each other.
Dad would have loved playing softball at any of our city parks softball diamonds. He would have loved to play golf at the Elks, Snow Hill or Majestic Springs. He could have ridden his bike all around town on our series of connected bike trails. I wish Mom and Dad had moved to Wilmington. They would have loved it. Like so many other people who call this community home, Mom and Dad would have loved it, too.
One of the most inspiring moments during the Dancing with the Clinton County Stars occurred early in the evening. Two of the pros, Cole Haugh and Timothy Larrick, came on stage to stand beside Dr. Willard Lane. They performed an extraordinary soft shoe routine. It was an honor to be in the audience to watch these two fine young men as they danced with Dr. Lane. At 92 years young, Dr. Lane showed class and skill as he danced the ol’ soft shoe. It verified the old saying, “Do you stop dancing because you get old, or do you get old because you stop dancing?” I felt the joy of Dr. Lane’s dance. It was great.
Whether it’s trick-or-treating downtown or attending a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” performance at the Murphy to celebrate Halloween, there is a lot of fun to have in downtown Wilmington.
It’s good to know that you don’t have to go very far to find an opportunity to have fun in Wilmington.
Randy Riley is Mayor of Wilmington.