ALTON — This town of about 100 people in northwest Osborne County serves as an example of what can happen when people work together to make their community better.
That was evidenced by the Alton PRIDE winning — yet once again — awards for their endeavors during Saturday’s annual Jubilee.
Dan Steffen, regional project manager for business and community development with the Kansas Department of Commerce, said Alton is one of three PRIDE committees he points to when communities join the organization.
The PRIDE program is a partnership of the Commerce Department, Kansas State University Research and Extension and Kansas PRIDE Inc. that assists local governments and volunteers in improving their communities.
Alton, along with Wilson, with about 780 people, and Lucas, with around 400, are Steffen’s prime examples of what communities can do, he said in presenting the Alton PRIDE with two awards.
“Look at the size of these communities and look what they’re accomplishing in their towns. I challenge those other communities new in the PRIDE program to do just that, take a look around and see what it is needs done and what they can do,” he said.
That’s what happened in 1983, when a group of women in Alton decided the city park needed to be improved from a state of disrepair. It now features a shelter house, tennis courts, basketball goals, playground equipment, bleachers and restrooms.
Their efforts led to the community joining the PRIDE program in 1985.
Renovations to the shelter house, which included new wiring and picnic tables, earned the committee the 2017 Project Excellence Award, which Steffens announced Saturday, along with naming long-time committee member Lillian Conway as the 2017 Rising Star Award.
“In many small communities, volunteers wear many hats,” Steffen said. “Lillian was described in the nomination form as a volunteer extraordinaire.”
She has served as the committee’s secretary and is also involved in the community through its alumni association, the United Methodist Church and the Bull City Community Foundation.
Alton was founded as Bull City in 1870 and renamed after the Illinois town in 1885.
Conway is also the Alton city clerk, directs the Bull City Opry Company and writes a weekly column for the Osborne County Farmer.
“While she is receiving the Rising Star Award, it is very evident that her star is risen and she is truly a community partner for Alton,” Steffen said.
The Jubilee is another effort of the committee, and Saturday was one of the largest ones, with 83 entries for the parade down Mill Street and 26 pies in the American Legion Auxilliary’s pie contest.
Many of the entries in the car and bike show were also in the parade, along with local businesses and organizations.
“It just kind of keeps growing. We keep adding something it seems like to me,” said Wilda Carswell, another long-time PRIDE committee member.
Following the parade, lunch was offered at several locations in town. At the Alton Rural Fire Department, the line for hotdogs and hamburgers off the grill wound across the street, all the tables were full at the Bohemian Cultural Center for barbecue sandwiches or chicken-cranberry wraps and Stroup Station served up a picnic lunch.
Many of those attending the Jubilee grew up there and come back for the event, like Janet Schulte of Ellsworth. Her mother, Imogene Thornburg, still lives in Alton.
“It’s kind of like homecoming,” Schulte said, as she sat with her mother and husband, Bernie, in the American Legion hall, enjoying pie and homemade ice cream.
Across the street in the community center — another project of the PRIDE committee — were the entries in a cake decorating contest along with displays of Alton’s history.
In the afternoon was a garden tractor pull at the ball field, mud volleyball, and an archery shoot sponsored by Bull City Gun Shop.
Live music was performed in the park throughout the afternoon. Other events included games for children, a stick horse rodeo, a production by the Bull City Opry, “It’s All Good.” A street dance finished the evening.
The Jubilee continues Sunday with a 10:30 a.m. community church service in the park with a potluck lunch following at the American Legion Hall and a softball tournament at 1 p.m.