By Bill Barnes
According to Suzanne Gulley, publisher of the former weekly Matthews newspaper The Southeast News, “The ‘festival’ idea dates back to early February . Matthews town councilman Jimmy Cockman, after attending the Gilbert, S.C. Peach Festival, invited Peach Festival chairman Ed Crout to a regular town council meeting. Representatives from community, civic and religious organizations were also asked to be present. Crout offered tips on planning a successful festival and Matthews citizens came away with a feeling of ‘we can do it.’”
“During several ensuing meetings of the local group, which later became the Matthews Community Club, purposes, ideas and a name for the festival were discussed. It was decided that funds raised were to be used to build a community center.”
Later, the building of a park was added to the fundraising effort.
Officers were elected and numerous committees were formed to get on with the planning of the festival. Bill Barnes was chosen as Matthews Community Club & Festival chairman. Anne Hendricks became vice chairman, Elaine Kiker, secretary and Carolyn Yancey, treasurer. In total, the Matthews Community Club had 18 charter members.
At the suggestion of Miriam Lemmond and with the unanimous support of the Matthews Community Club membership, the festival’s name became the Matthews Stumptown Festival, commemorating Stumptown, one of the town’s earliest unofficial names.
Now called Matthews Alive, the original Matthews Stumptown Festival was where the festival’s format was first conceived and executed. Launched on Labor Day weekend in 1976, the Matthews Stumptown Festival included one of the largest parades in the state, a carnival, arts and crafts, concessions, scholarship pageants, celebrity appearances, gospel shows, a street dance and fireworks. An effort was made to get President Jimmy Carter’s mother, Lillian, to be the festival’s first parade marshal, but she respectfully declined in a very nice letter to the Matthews Community Club’s chairman. In its first year, The Matthews Stumptown Festival raised a little over $10,000.
Organizers of The Matthews Stumptown Festival along with those that carry on the tradition with Matthews Alive! can all take pride in the knowledge that the goals laid down in the Matthews Community Club’s mission statement from 1975 “to build a Community Center [The Matthews Community Center] and park [Stumptown Park] for the town of Matthews has been realized.”
Bill Barnes served as first chairman of the Matthews Community Club & Matthews Stumptown Festival.