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This weekend marks the 21st year that Bagdad Baptist Church plays host to Bagdad Days, a rite of spring that calls many former Bagdad residents home to play and reconnect with their roots.
“We have people come back from out of town and out of state for Bagdad Days,” said Kyle Wiley, pastor of Bagdad Baptist. “Everyone knows that their friends will be back, so they come home, too. even young adults know this is a time to return to their roots. It’s a wonderful weekend.”
The center point for the 2-day festival is the parade, which kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday from the place that locals call “The Square” and proceeds to the church.
“We started Bagdad Days as an outreach to the community. Most of the activities take place on the church grounds, but everyone is invited. It’s for the whole community,” Wiley said.
“Every year, our planning committee selects the grand marshals for the parade,” said Phyllis Bailey, this year’s event chair. “It’s quite an honor. We try to choose people from Bagdad that many people know. We lift up people who are important to our community.”
This year’s marshals are long-time resident Evelina Shirley and postal carrier Calvin Montfort.
Evelina Shirley was born in Bagdad, and with the exception of a few years, she has lived her whole life in the community. She’s a member of Bagdad Baptist Church, where she still attends services when she can.
“Mrs. Shirley” has been a housekeeper and a cook for many families in the community. “She’s a good, hard-working lady,” Bailey said. “She’s known for her cooking. And for her large family.”
According to Shirley, she has 8 children, 16 grand-children, and 8 great-grandchildren.
When asked if her family was going to come out to see her in the parade, she said, “Everyone in Bagdad is my family, and they’ll be here!”
Montfort knows Bagdad. He has lived in the community his entire life, and more than that, he has delivered mail to every address in town for more than 33 years.
“I used to go pick up the mail at the old post office when it used to be in the building with the old bank,” Montfort said. “I’d go over before school and bring the mail in with me. One day, the former mail carrier told me that he needed a sub on his rural route. Next thing you know, I had a job.
“My favorite part of the work was as a rural carrier I was outside, on the road, by myself. Didn’t have to answer to anybody. It was my job to get the mail right. And I got to know the people. A bunch of them would cut up with me, I’d cut up with them. I enjoyed it.”
“It feels good to be asked to be grand marshal. I’ve been around here a long time. It’s good that they’re thinking of me for this. I’ve been practicing my ‘royalty wave’ for Saturday. I’m ready for it.”
In addition to the mid-morning parade, Bagdad Days organizers are planning a full weekend of activities.
Saturday morning kicks off with a pancake breakfast at 7:30 and a 5k run at 8 a.m. Daylong events include a yard sale, a silent auction, live music and their second annual quilt show. For the children, there are inflatables and bounce houses with unlimited play available for $5 for the day.
A new addition this season is a Friday night dinner and variety show presented by the youth of Bagdad Baptist Church.
“It’s a trip down memory lane, filled with oldies music from Elvis to Sonny and Cher, along with favorite commercials. The students dress in character and have a great time with it,” Bailey said. “We’ll offer a home-cooked meal at 6:30, plus the show. Funds raised will help send children from the church to summer camp or on summer mission trips.”
Tickets are required and may be purchased for $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Children 3-10 years are half-price.
Other new activities for 2013 include a dog show at 1-2:30 p.m., with awards such as “Best Smile,” and “Best Tail Wag.” There will also be a pie wheel, in which participants spin a wheel to win a pie.
Fire stations from across Shelby County have been invited to submit entries for the first chili cook-off. The public can purchase tasting spoons, which allows them to taste each of the entries and vote on their favorite chili. Event organizers are hoping to inspire some friendly competition between chili cooks across the county.
Bingo is back, with cash prizes, along with a tricycle obstacle course and a fish fry on Saturday evening.
At the end of the day, Saturday, there will be a launch of more than 500 balloons. A card will be attached to each balloon, and a prize will be awarded to the person who calls in from the farthest distance to report that they found one of the balloons.
2013 Bagdad Days
WHEN:Friday and Saturday
WHERE:Bagdad Baptist Church
MAIN EVENTS:Variety show, 6 p.m. today; 5K, 8 a.m., Saturday; parade, 10 a.m. Saturday; helium balloon release, 4 p.m., Saturday.