The 53rd annual Festival of the Forks celebration took place Friday and Saturday in downtown Albion. This event is a staple of the Albion community and lures in a number of outside tourists that want to experience the atmosphere of a small town festival.
The first annual Foundry Mile, hosted by the Foundry Bakery and Deli, helped kick off the weekend, with first place finishers for both the men’s and women’s races receiving a 1,000 dollar prize. As much as I would have loved to win, the level of excitement and turnout for the race gave me joy just to participate.
Small town communities like Albion don’t receive a lot of traffic or outside business throughout the year. Following the 2008 recession, small communities suffered as businesses and people left. Community events, however, can provide opportunities for volunteer participation, socialization and economic development.
As local businesses build partnerships with the city and citizens drive fundraising efforts for community events, money is injected into the local economy to encourage expansion and development. Driving this community engagement lifts up people’s spirits while advancing city development efforts.
As I began the run at Victory Park, members of the community lined the streets to show their appreciation and cheer on the competition. At the quarter mile marker, the pack of runners began to split apart.
The humid, morning air began to weigh heavily on my body. By the three-quarter mile, I was ready to quit, but the supporters that lined the street willed me to the finish line.
Dragging myself to the finish outside of The Foundry Bakehouse and Deli, the importance of the weekend was evident. Spectators were yelling words of encouragement and cheering for all of the finishers. The level of enthusiasm shown for the race was thrilling. It was visible just how much the success of this race and the overall festival meant to Albion residents and the community.
Both the Festival of the Forks and Foundry Mile are bigger than any one person in Albion. They are events that encapsulate what Albion has become throughout its storied history. It is a time for community members to come together and celebrate not only where the city has been but where it is headed.