by Kalie Ammons
The first Urbana Festival in nearly three and a half decades will be held on Saturday, July 3 in the Urbana Park/Ball field. The Urbana Yoke Parish and Urbana Lions Club organized the event with Gene Miller heading it.
The festival is jam-packed with events for people of all ages, including a tractor pull, bake sale, kids’ games, square dancing, town rummage sale and a performance by God’s Country. Events start at 8 a.m. and last until about 9 p.m.
“Most of it’s going to be on the west side of St Rd 13 in Urbana. That way the kids don’t have to cross the highway. We’ll try to keep most of it on the one side, just for safety,” Miller explained.
Gene Miller is a member of the Urbana Lions Club and an active member of the Urbana Yoke Parish Church. He was the previous festival organizer, so having him head the festival this year just seemed natural.
“The last one I put on was in 1981. The Lions club asked what it was and I told them and they said ‘Well, let’s try another one, just to let the community have a little fun.’ So they kind of looked around and asked me if I’d do it and I said, ‘well, I’ll get it started,’” Miller told The Paper.
What some people might not know about Miller, a veteran, is that he suffers from Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Symptoms of Parkinson’s include muscle tremors and difficulty with speech.
“I just want to thank everybody that’s helping me do it. Because I’ve got Parkinson’s, some days are good, some days aren’t so good. I’ve got a whole bunch of real good folks out there. And we’ll get her done. The committee chairmen know what they’re doing,” Miller said about his struggles with Parkinson’s.
“Gene is a great example of what a person who struggles everyday to do what most of us do without thinking can accomplish,” said Mary Ann Mast, an Urbana Lions Club member and good friend of Miller.
Miller received help from the Lions and church members. A committee was created to run each event. The committees were appointed chairmen, and the chairmen would meet with Miller at the Lions Club and Urbana Yoke Parish to ensure the events would run smoothly.
“I just kind of headed it up and got everything started and turned it over to the committee chairmen. We’ve got a real good participation from the Lions Club and the church. I’m real proud of them.”
Miller also runs the tractor pull, his favorite event. He says the festival will be a success as long as people come out. All the festival needs is community members looking to have fun.
Miller’s story is a great example of just how strong the community in Wabash and the surrounding area is. When asked about anyone who had been particularly helpful, Miller said, “Mary Ann Mast has been the biggest help, she’s just been wonderful. She calls me once or twice a week and discusses this or that. She’ll kind of take charge if I’m not around. She’s a good gal to have.”