Porterdale has reunion like no other

My first experiences with reunions were of the family variety. My daddy's people were good about holding one every year -- especially on my grandmother's side of the family. She was a Rivers and a lot of her folks lived down around Griffin.

Once a year we would pile into our second-hand Buick--Mama, Daddy, my sister and me and an aunt and uncle or two--and head to Griffin. The trunk would be full of goodies -- Mama's fried chicken, potato salad and deviled eggs and all sorts of food that was fittin' to eat. We would have a great day, playing with all the cousins and that and the smorgasbord of good food almost made it worth having so many old people I didn't know pat me on the head while telling me how much I had grown since the previous year.

I haven't been to a family reunion in a long, long time. Maybe I'll throw one of my own one day, if I can round up enough family to come.

My high school graduating class held a reunion last summer -- our 40th -- but I was out of town trying to convince some group of strangers that they hadn't wasted the money they had spent hiring me to entertain them. I saw the pictures, though, and it looked like my classmates had aged quite well.

There was a combined class reunion for the Newton County High School classes of 1970, '71, and '72 just last weekend, right here in Conyers, at the International Horse Park and I had been looking forward to that gathering for a long, long time. Sally Irwin was supposed to be there, and I dearly wanted to see her. What has it been? Thirty-five years? Linda Evans was said to be coming, too. I was still in college the last time I saw Linda Evans and I didn't know if there was to have been music at the class reunion, but if there had been I would have begged them to play "To Love Somebody" and I would have begged Linda Evans to dance with me one more time, for old time's sake.

The best laid plans and all of that, though. I wasn't able to attend that class reunion, either. As you may have read, my prostate gland decided to try to kill me this winter and a couple of weeks ago a doctor used a robot to cut the sucker out. With all due respect, the guy that told me prostate surgery was a piece of cake didn't know what he was talking about. It has been a tough couple of weeks, y'all and I wasn't about to show up at a class reunion and dance with Sally Irwin and Linda Evans wearing a diaper. Now I told you all of that to tell you this. There is another reunion on the near horizon. This one is for a whole town. I bet you can guess which one. That is right -- Porterdale. The Porterdale Reunion Festival will be held this Saturday, Aug. 27, with registration beginning at 10 a.m. in the Mill Lofts. The event is sponsored by the city, the Friends of Porterdale, and the Porterdale Women's Club. My mama went to the New York World's Fair with the Porterdale Women's Club in 1964 and talked about that trip for the rest of her life. They are a good group, understand.

I doubt that there will be fried chicken or deviled eggs as good as my mama's available, but there will be places to grab a bite to eat -- and the above mentioned Women's Club is holding a bake sale. You don't have to have ever lived in Porterdale to come and have a good time. Like at any other reunion, good folks will be on hand, reliving great times and every year more and more people come and bring memorabilia from back in the day, when our little town was known far and wide as the prototype for mill villages across the South.

And I'm going to be there, too -- come hell or high water. I was invited to give the welcoming address several months ago and Saturday morning my lovely wife, Lisa, is going to wheel me in and at 11:30 they are going to prop me up and I am going to say a few words about why I could not have been raised in a better place, nor among a better group of folks.

You know, I am very fortunate. I am invited to travel all over the land to speak to all sorts of groups. Just in the last few months I have made speeches in Hilton Head, S.C., Scottsdale, Ariz., Pensacola Beach, Fla., and Colbert, Ga. -- just to mention a few -- and when my hosts ask me about an introduction the only thing I ever ask of them is to make sure that they tell the audience that I am from Porterdale, Ga. Come on out Saturday morning and find out why.

You can buy a signed copy of my new cookbook, too, if you've a mind, and the good Lord knows that the medical professionals who have been trying to help me beat cancer all summer would appreciate that.

See you Saturday. I'll be the good-looking guy in the purple and gold shirt.

Darrell Huckaby