Remember When: The Dream Park
Twenty years ago an extraordinary six-day event took place in Andalusia. Volunteers from all walks of life and citizens of all ages worked together to build a family park and playground for our children. Hundreds of people including neighbors, business owners, parents, grandparents, high school students, church groups, civic clubs, and even jail trusties all helped to build “Dream Park,” the chosen site located at the Antioch Road entrance to LBWCC Jr. College.
Planning, organizing, and fund raising went on for about a year with the assistance of architects and various committees formed to pursue the undertaking. Building contractors shared their expertise and experience to help frame the playground. Some businesses gave their employees time off to work one or more shifts on the project.
Chairman Russ Schussler along with co-chairmen Janet Atkinson and Candy Parker met on several occasions with members of the Covington Historical Society where ideas were gathered for one facet of the park which would include some artwork by local artists for history murals. It was finally decided how the story of the town’s history could best be portrayed through original outdoors artwork.
Local artists, members of VALA, the Visual Arts League of Andalusia, volunteered to carry out the project. Connie Nall created the design assisted by Aurelia Scherf Donald who worked on background, tough-ups, and detail. Becky Morgan, Peter Savino, Roger Powell, and Charlotte Cross also lent their talents.
During the initial week-long construction of the park, the history murals measuring 4 feet by 8 feet were delivered on site and installed to everyone’s delight. Painted in oil, the murals were arranged back to back so that holes were cut for placing children’s heads through the faces of the characters in the various scenes which added another twist to history.
Mothers, fathers, and grandparents are able to photograph the children as an Indian, an explorer, a pioneer, a logger, a farmer, or a train engineer which adds great fun for young and young-at-heart park visitors while at the same time teaches and keeps tales and the legend about the town’s history alive!
The stories told on the murals follow an historical sequence:
1 – The Indians 2 – The Spanish Explorers and Traders at the Montezuma Settlement 3 – The Homesteaders 4 – The Timber Cutters 5 – The Farmers 6 – The Coming of the Railroad and The RR Depot.
In later years, local artist Tara Dalton touched up and spruced up the faded colors with her talent and magic!
In keeping with the park’s Andalusia theme, four wood structure models exemplary of historic downtown Andalusia buildings were built with miniature replica facades based on local artist Roger Powell’s original drawings in the Historic Andalusia Coloring Book. Those easily recognizable points of interest include the Covington County Courthouse, the Andalusia High School, the First Presbyterian Church, and the First National Bank Building. (Powell’s Historic Andalusia Coloring Book can be found in the gift shop at the Three Notch Museum.)
From one corner of the site to the other, hundreds of volunteers combined efforts working together in May of 1999 for a common purpose in what can be remembered as “the largest volunteer construction project in present Andalusia history”– maybe a modern version of a barn raising or a log rolling!
A community spirit of goodwill, cooperation, and pride was shown by all involved. For those who were not around over 20 years ago or were too young to know how Dream Park came about, this is just a reminder. Also, may this story be an encouragement that citizens from all walks of life even today can work together to achieve a goal.
Thanks to Janice Castleberry who just turned 89 years young and who reminded this writer about the history of Dream Park. Janice herself at age 68 back then with a lot of helpers worked in the food preparation area keeping those workers sanding, painting, hammering, shoveling, and carrying buckets revived and refreshed. She well Remembers When it all took place.
This celebration of community spirit culminated with a grand opening ceremony of Dream Park on Sunday, Mother’s Day in 1999. Thanks to all of those, too numerous to list all names, who helped build a dream that has been enjoyed by many over these 20+ years! (My friends, family and I have had at least two picnics in a gazebo at the park since the coronavirus pandemic, have you?)
Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.