Philadelphia Public Library held a cookout Saturday as a part of the celebration of the town’s 200th anniversary.
Locals mingled with county and state officials, and candidates running for election took the opportunity to get in a little last-minute campaigning.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally presented Philadelphia Mayor Damian Crawford with a proclamation that honors the town for celebrating its 200th birthday and establishes April 30 as the official anniversary.
Crawford thanked McNally and everyone who had showed up for the event, emphasizing he is committed to improving the community.
“We want to attract new residents,” Crawford said. “We want homeowners to fix up and remodel their homes.”
Mark Williams, library director, explained how some of the most popular services at the library have nothing to do with books.
“This is a great chance for everyone in the city and surrounding area to visit the library, view its offerings and sign up for a library card,” he said.
The facility offers access to four public computers, photocopy, fax and scan capabilities, and a collection of 9,400 adult and children books and DVDs.
Those with a valid ID were urged to sign up for a library card at a table manned by Cora Smith, substitute librarian who often works the Philadelphia branch.
“I love working here,” she said. “It’s small but eclectic.”
Smith, who had after just an hour signed up 22 residents, many of them children, said Williams makes sure the library has something for everyone, including fans of Nora Roberts and books on the history of the Mayan culture.
Jeremiah Collis attended with his daughter, Emma Grace Collis. He watched as she signed up for a library card and commented he expected her to be reading more books in the future.
“We’re going to be spending more time in the library,” he said.
Kate Clabough, director of the Loudon Public Library, said the Philadelphia location serves as a destination and sanctuary for local residents. She praised Williams for his work improving services.
“It’s a hidden gem off the beaten path,” she said.
Cindy Crawford, alderwoman, said she feels the same is true about Philadelphia.
“It’s small but it’s old and interesting,” she said.
Crawford said she and the rest of town government have been working to make Philadelphia more appealing for insiders and outsiders. She said regular events will be held Tuesdays through December, including a farmers market and food trucks.
“We’re not going to be able to get a Starbucks or McDonald’s to move in here, but we can do some things to make it more fun for the residents and others who might want to visit,” she said.
Getting residents to clean up their property is one of the goals of local government, she said. The city will be providing a dumpster so people can get rid of unwanted trash and junk. She said items can lay around a long time just because residents have no way to transport refuse to the dump.
Another goal of council is to encourage property owners to improve their property and live in the city. Right now many of the homes are occupied by renters, she said.
“We want them to feel a part of the city,” Crawford said. “We want them thinking of this as their home.”
Gary Whitfield, county commissioner for District 4, which includes Philadelphia, grilled hot dogs and hamburgers in the shade of an old brick building. Unopposed in the May 3 primary, he said he was glad he could have fun instead of campaigning.
Whitfield, who said Philadelphia is attempting to make a comeback, hopes people will invest in the area through buying and building homes.
“These investments will bring in growth and opportunity,” he said.
Local historian Ruth McQueen said she was glad to see a good turnout. She said Philadelphia has always been populated by hard-working, church-going people who didn’t make themselves highly visible.
“I am amazed at the number of people that drive by on Highway 11 and who have no idea there is a vibrant town here,” McQueen said. “We want to remind them.”
Red Waller, whose grandfather built the mill that drove the economy of Philadelphia for half a century, said he is glad people are trying to revitalize the city. As the former principal of the Philadelphia Elementary School, he said he has always believed in the town.
A PES choir comprised of first- and second-graders sang five songs, all about time, a theme befitting the anniversary celebration, John Dutton, music teacher, said. The tunes included “Rock around the Clock” and “Nine to Five” to the enthusiastic applause of the crowd.
County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw said he was thrilled to see the crowd. He said he has been a fan of Philadelphia for a long time.
“This is my old stomping grounds,” he said. “When I was growing up this is where a lot of my friends lived.”
Bradshaw praised Williams efforts at improving the library and council for revitalizing the community.
“All the effort that they’ve put in to beautify this place is really starting to make a difference,” he said.