The 31st Star Camp Reunion was held Saturday, Sept. 21, at the North Welcome Station in the Lyon County portion of LBL. This year's reunion, organized by Stella Pinnegar Barnett and JBelle Snyder Riggle, was a nice way to end the usual summer season of homecomings, which begins the first Sunday of May with Pinnegar Cemetery Homecoming.
Though Stella Pinnegar Barnett was hospitalized the day before the reunion, she made sure her husband Homer delivered the tables for the event and sent word that her heart was with us, even if her body couldn't be. Former organizers of the event Norma Jean Rhodes Ladd, who could not attend due to a family illness, and Mary Lou Fulks Underhill, who has passed away, were also remembered.
Johnny Downing, Dennis Trimm and Homer Barnett placed the tables in a shady location while the day's visitors began to arrive with their chairs, enough food to feed a crowd triple our size, and wonderful stories and memories to share.
Dennis Trimm offered the prayer before our meal. He also reported that since the last reunion, the Lyon County portion of Between the Rivers has lost 24 former residents or their descendants.
Despite that solemn moment, people soon formed lines to fill their plates while talking to everyone around them. The joy of their coming together and remembering the former communities, homes, and people who lived there is always a cause for celebration. Despite the 50-plus years since people were forced from their homeland by TVA, the heritage and history of the area is very much alive in their hearts and minds and their connection to each other is stronger than ever.
Joe Travis expressed it best when he said, "TVA and the Forest Service never understood that we belonged here and always will, no matter who controls the area." Someone else added, "They have a piece of paper that says it is theirs. We have 200 years of blood, sweat, tears, bones and blood invested. You tell me who really owns it."
Despite some sad memories about TVA's forced removal of the former residents, moving from one group to another would yield many wonderful memories. Women shared recipes passed down for generations and caught up on family news. Men talked about the various ways they once earned a living in the area or farming technology of yesteryear. And of course, people connected to relatives they knew or met new people and discovered new genealogy connections.
The youth were also part of the reunion. Karon DePriest's grandson Braxton Hubbard helped carry chairs and charmed everyone in the process. One little year-old girl gave everyone high fives while Dennis Trimm's daughter said she would prefer that we did not teach her little Maya how to make mud pies. Maya was more than willing to learn.
Missing this year was the background music from a band since so many of our musicians have passed away, the most recent being Donald Forsythe. Many reminisced about Doug Duncan's and Ovid Trimm's guitar picking, Jack Pinnegar's fiddle playing, Donald and Mary Peal' Forsythe's beautiful duets, and Happy Parish's "Blue Moon of Kentucky" among many other celebrated performances. Despite the absence of the band, their music still plays in our minds and hearts. Next year we look forward to some of our younger musicians joining us for the day.
The day ended with hugs all around, a few sad good-byes, knowing some of us won't meet again in this world, and plans for 'another time, another place' since Between the Rivers people always find a reason to spend time together. Our culture has outlasted one government agency who thought they would separate us, and may live to see the removal yet of another one.
The Forest Service did not provide the usual Porta Potties, which was difficult for many in attendance due to age or recent accidents that made walking uphill to the restrooms difficult for some and impossible for others.
As one person expressed, "Thank heavens for Depends because I would never have made it up that hill in time." Others were transported back and forth by car numerous times.
The Forest Service reported storm damage made the original Star Camp area inaccessible, thus it was moved to the North Welcome Station's picnic area. After the homecoming, a trip to the original location revealed one limb that could have been removed by hand.
Though the numbers were down for the reunion due to the move and unforeseen family circumstances, 47 resilient souls still gathered. In attendance were the following: Kenneth Baker; Homer Barnett; Billy, Trace, and Carolyne Martin Bonds; Dottie Calhoun Brown; Karon DePriest with her daughter Angel and grandson Braxton Hubbard; Johnny and Wanda Balentine Downing; Bill Forsythe; Leon Forsythe; Nadya Trimm; Paul and Pat Hudson Freeman; Maya Guess; Barbara Hall; James Higgins; Wayne Kingston; Melissa Trimm Minard; Doyle and Lena O'Bryan with granddaughter Brooklyn Olive; Jeremy and O'Bryan and daughter Audrey; Jerry and Terry O'Bryan; Shara Parish; Wayne Parish and his grandson August; Mavis Jean Fowler Pinnegar; JBelle Snyder Riggle; Roddy Robertson; John and Mary Thorning Sheridan; B. Smith; Kelsie Smith; Joe Travis; Dennis Trimm; Kathy Trimm; Kevin Trimm; Linda Trimm; Lois Fulks Trimm; Dennis Trimm; and last but not least, Mason Woodruff.