It had been 21 years since the last Vernon Parish Training School reunion, but according to most of the attendees, it was worth the wait.
July 4 began a four-day event for about 300 former students, teachers and administrators who traveled from Germany, New York, Alaska, Oregon, California, Florida, South Carolina and Virginia to attend the reunion. The celebration included registration day, a golf tournament, the Chat and Chew, a museum tour, a picnic, a banquet, a parade, a casino trip and a memorial service. Many of the events took place at the former Vernon Parish Training School which is now the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center.
"It just brought people together," said Willie Kennedy, a committee member who helped organize the event. "People who had been away from home for many years had a chance to get together and bond. We just had a lot of fun, a lot of activities and a lot of happy people. The committee worked together hard. After 6 or 8 months of planning, it couldn't have come together better."
Mayor Betty Westerchil attended the Chat and Chew at Celebrations and welcomed alumni and their families back to the city of Leesville. Leesville City Councilman Steve Kennedy also welcomed his former classmates, family and friends home at the Alumni Banquet.The keynote speaker for the Alumni Banquet, also at Celebrations, was Fletcher Cheatham, former teacher and principal of Vernon High School. Murphy Cheatham was the toastmaster for the event.
Jeremiah Davis, the former Vernon High School Drum Major, donned his uniform again, after 40 -plus years, and led the Alumni Parade through the community as he'd done many times in the past and with just as much fanfare.
The celebration culminated with a memorial church service in the gymnasium honoring deceased alumni, including  Hamp J. Smith, former Vernon High School teacher and principal of the Vernon Elementary School.  Mr. Smith had also been a member of the Vernon School Reunion Committee. Regionald Seastrunk was the master of ceremony for the memorial service and pastor Ezra Shannon was the speaker.
Plans for  the 2009 reunion are already underway.