Coffee with Mimi: Countdown to next year’s croquet 

By Mimi Becker
Contributing writer 
This was to be the year.

Summer is festival time in small towns all across America. A time when what you have, you show off and brag about and have so much fun. Every community worth its salt in the tourism industry plans, analyzes and tinkers with possible activities and offerings to set out a program which will have something for everyone.

Certainly the goal is to put the town’s best feet forward to draw in visitors from everywhere. But, let’s not forget the home folks. Brass Band Festival has been around since 1990. I remember this well, as our third child was born just before the very first event. We lived in Louisville at the time and my mom and dad said there would be a lot going on. Bring the kids and enjoy. Well, we did. It was hot and I spent the weekend chasing a three-year-old and a five-year-old while holding a two-month-old and listening to the music.

We are experienced festival-goers. Just before the Brass Band Festival, there is the Derby. With the same newborn, we chased at the Derby Festival Balloon race. That was the year Flip Wilson rode in the Benihana balloon. We climbed over and through fences in the countryside to get up to the balloon.

But, as the years passed, with one thing and another, I didn’t really participate in the Brass Band Festival. There was always something — work, trips, weddings, funerals, ballgames or swim meets — which prevented much time spent at our signature event.

So, this was to be the year. I would find at least one activity each day to get into the spirit of the Festival. I decided the fun would begin on Thursday, June 1.

Coincidentally, June 1 marked the 225th birthday of our state. Furthermore, my office is in Constitution Square. Naturally, I would be around for the program. So, does that really count as my event a day for that day? What else could I do?

I would play croquet.

I registered my team, which at the time consisted of only one other person, possibly, and no name. I volunteered my two croquet sets and set out to convince a couple other people to join me. Now, if a person owns two croquet sets, that might mean that person is an accomplished and regular croquet player. I hadn’t played in about 15 years, give or take.

I wasn’t ever a good croquet player. Strategy and technique were not part of the activity as far as I was concerned. So, if I was serious about going out in public and not being an embarrassment, I had better come up with something, or someone, as a back-up.

My brother-in-law came to mind. Two reasons; one, he has an extensive wardrobe and dressing for the event was part of the contest and two, as a field archaeologist, he and his cohorts would play croquet on lunch break. Great! He could win the event on his own if I just didn’t do too much damage on my turn.

As kids, my siblings used to play croquet in the backyard fairly regularly. They were vicious. There are stories about them playing when it was virtually dark. It was common among them to send opponents’ balls so far into the corners of the yard, they could barely be seen. I was long gone during those years, but surely I could entice one of the competitive culprits to be a part of the team for old times’ sake. My brother in Atlanta would be a good choice. However, leaving work in the middle of the week to come play a croquet match seemed an unreasonable ask, even to me. Who else? Well, my sister in Versailles isn’t too far away and her husband is usually a good sport about joining in.

Done. I had a team, a couple in-laws and a sister. Everybody wear something croquetish and we are good.

At the appointed hour, we assembled in Perryville at the Karrick-Parks House. According to the little history lesson we were given at the beginning of the match, the house was the scene of the longest running croquet event in the country. For some 50 years, croquet was played at that location every week.

As we were warming up, I could sense doom. Clearly, a well-manicured croquet lawn may have been available in the heyday of the home’s croquet history, but it is not so today. Coupled with my general lack of ability, I would have to navigate uneven terrain if I expected to ever get a ball through a wicket. While I had teammates to rescue my performance, they would not necessarily be able to salvage all my errant shots.

Fortunately, the spirit of this croquet event was much more sportsmanlike than that of my kid brothers and sisters. The competition was all in good fun. We came in last in our match, but we did win the award for best dressed team member. My archaeologist brother-in-law with the great wardrobe came through for us.

The evening was beautiful, the music was great and the kick-off of my festival weekend can be deemed an unqualified success.

For the record, on Friday I volunteered to check ID’s at the street festival. Saturday morning, I volunteered at the Run for the Brass and actually ran the 5K. Saturday evening we joined a group at a table for the picnic. We hit the jackpot on that one. Our hosts are avid picnickers and gifted party planners. Their decorations were judged “Over the Top,” and deservedly so.

One more day to go for a complete festival participation schedule.

I forgot to mention that our five-year-old granddaughter came for the weekend. Beginning with the birthday party, she was with me the whole way. While I was checking ID’s, she came for the concert in Weisiger and enjoyed the children’s activities. She didn’t participate in the run. However, we made a trip to a horse farm in Springfield when I was finished. She danced the evening away at the picnic and explored the festival grounds from end to end.

Sometimes it is good to hang with a five-year-old and recognize there is only so much fun that can be had in a short period of time unless you want a meltdown. Sunday was a day to learn that lesson.

Sunday afternoon I mowed the grass and plotted out where the croquet course will fit. Only 362 days to prepare for a rematch.