In the town I grew up in, there is a yearly event that everyone looks forward to and this week marks the 130th Soldiers Reunion Week. The Soldiers Reunion is (credited as) the longest-running patriotic celebration in the United States not based on an official holiday. The tradition began in the county seat town (Newton, NC in Catawba County) on July 4, 1889, when Civil War veterans answered a statewide call for recognition of their wartime service and to register for pensions. The gathering, then on Court Square, led to annual veterans’ reunions, starting the popular patriotic event then called Old Soldiers Reunion.
The Catawba County Museum of History – which is located in the downtown 1924 courthouse – displays a patriotic exhibit of historic military displays all week and is free to the public. Events around town include a Classic Car Show on Courthouse Square on Sunday, outdoor concerts with street dances on Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday, a ‘patriotic’ baby parade, and a “Pet Mania” dog show. Then on Thursday, Reunion Day, downtown surrounding the 1924 circa courthouse, craft vendors, artists, craftsmen, and food trucks line up around the square. A memorial service is held at 10 a.m. honoring veterans & members of patriotic organizations in the county who have died during the past year is followed by a Jazz concert and a fish fry at the American Legion for the counties veterans….then the fun begins!
5:00 p.m. marks the start of the mile-long parade around town, which gets bigger every year (last time I went it was over an hour and a half long). 8,000 – 10,000 people show up for the parade and if that wasn’t enough, afterward, there’s a seniors dance and more music. The week is finished with the (29th annual) Southern Biscuit Soldiers Reunion 5K Run/Walk and on Sunday, the Soldiers Reunion Centry Bike Race will take place.
It’s a full week of fun and as a teen, I never missed a day of it. Now, as I’m older, I skip out on a lot of it, even the parade. Sitting in the 90+ degree heat isn’t my idea of a good time anymore but for thousands today, it’ll be the place to be!
As a side note, my great-great-grandfather, Reuben Travis, fought in the civil war and lost his right arm. I found the following information about him on Ancestry.com where his military record lists his name as “Reuben D Traffensteadt.” (Not sure what year it was changed to Travis.)
TRAFFENSTEADT, REUBEN D., Private
Born in Catawba County, NC where he resided as a farmer prior to enlisting in Catawba County on July 4, 1862, for the (civil) war. Wounded in the right arm at Fredericksburg, Virginia, December 13, 1862. Right arm amputated. Hospitalized at Richmond, Virginia, where he was discharged on February 13, 1863, by reason of disability. Discharge certificate gives his age as 31.
Reuben was my paternal grandmother’s, grandfather. He was born April 15, 1829, Coincidentally, “my” birthday is April 15th as well–139 years apart. How neat is that?!