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Once upon a time, I had dreams of moving to a big city, living in a fancy studio apartment and working at a large, daily newspaper. But, some dreams aren't meant to come true, and I ended up moving back to Marion County after graduating from college and working for my hometown, weekly newspaper. I would be lying if I didn't admit that sometimes, actually quite often, I wonder what life would be like had I actually pursued those dreams rather than coming back to my small, country hometown. It would have been exciting, no doubt. The eclectic people, the variety of foods, the nightlife, the fabulous shopping... I can imagine there are many positives to living in a big city. But there are many negatives, too. The crime, smog, traffic, impersonal relationships and traffic. Oh, wait, did I say that already? I hate traffic. My point is, at the end of the day, the big city... it just isn't me. I am small town country. When I returned to Marion County in 2002, I wrote a column about my love for my small town. I went back in the archives recently and found that particular column. Reading it reminds me of how blessed I am to have been raised in a small town and how I'm so glad my son will have the same opportunity. I'd like to share portions of that column with you in honor of our upcoming "Small Town Country' Ham Days festival. Happy Ham Days everybody! I was raised in a small town, I'm glad to be back Written in July of 2002 Why did I come back to Marion County? Many people have asked me that question recently. Well, first things first. I got a job. Sure, that obviously has a little something to do with it. However, that barely scratches the surface of why I've moved home. In his song, "Small Town," John Mellancamp seems to have it all figured out. "I was born in a small town. And I live in a small town..." My life started in Marion County. Childhood memories of Ham Days, Boho the clown, Arts in the Park and The Gingerbread Tree all remain vivid in my mind. My love for Marion County started at a very young age, and is still very much alive today. "Educated in a small town... Use to daydream in that small town..." I started my very first day of kindergarten at St. Charles Elementary School as a wide-eyed, scared little girl. I ended my senior year at Marion County High School as a teary-eyed, frightened college freshman. The day I left for Murray State University was the hardest day of my life, thus far. I didn't want to leave Marion County. I didn't want to leave the only home I knew. "I've seen it all in a small town. Had myself a ball in a small town..." No matter how many parties I went to in college, they don't match up to the nights I spent cruising with my friends in Lebanon. Every Friday night we would all pile in someone's car and cruise up and down the strip. We would play the music full blast, sing at the top of our lungs and dance like fools. I miss those carefree nights and wish I wouldn't have grown up so fast. "No I cannot forget where it is that I come from. Cannot forget the people who love me..." Marion County has always been home to me. No matter where I've gone or how long I've been away, it still feels like home. The people of this community have welcomed me with open arms. It is almost as if I never left. "Yea, I can be myself in this small town. And people let me be just what I want to be..." The people of Marion County have always accepted me for who I am. I've never had to put on an act for anyone. Whether it was being named 1997 Marion County Jr. Miss or being a member of the Lady Knights basketball team, I always had the support of this great community. "I was born in a small town. And I can breathe in a small town. Gonna die in a small town. Oh that's probably where they'll bury me." I couldn't have said it better myself. That pretty much says it all, now doesn't it? Top 20 signs that you are from a small town 1. You can name everyone you graduated with. 2. You know what 4-H means. 3. You went to parties at a pasture, barn, gravel pit, or in the middle of a dirt road. 4. It was cool to date somebody from the neighboring town. 5. The whole school went to the same party after graduation (or Junior Miss). 6. You didn't give directions by street names but rather by references. Turn by Nelson's house, go two blocks to Anderson's, and it's four houses left of the track field. 7. You couldn't help but date a friend's ex-boyfriend/girlfriend. 8. Your car stayed filthy because of the dirt roads, and you will never own a dark vehicle for this reason. 9. The town next to you was considered "trashy" or "snooty," but was actually just like your town. 10. The people in the "big city" dressed funny, and then you picked up the trend two years later. 11. Anyone you wanted could be found at the local gas station, drive-in or the town bar. 12. You saw at least one friend a week driving a tractor through town or one of your friends driving a grain truck to school occasionally. 13. The gym teacher suggested you haul hay for the summer to get stronger. 14. Directions were given using "the" stop light as a reference. 15. When you decided to walk somewhere for exercise, five people would pull over and ask if you wanted a ride. 16. Most people went by a nickname. 17. Your teachers remembered when they taught your parents. 28. You could charge at any local store or write checks without any ID. 19. The closest mall was over an hour away. 20. It was normal to see an old man riding through town on a riding lawn mower. Source: Compiled from the World Wide Web.