Friday, September 5

Carry Nation in Holly Michigan

Carry Nation, an infamous member of the temperance movement and the "Women's Christian Temperance Union" during the pre-Prohibition era in America and stood out infamously because of her style of promoting those values, vandalism.
She was arrested over 30 times for 'hatchetations' (as she called them), which were nothing more than (though well-intended) destruction of bar fixtures and the stock with her signature hatchet, performed either alone or with hymn-singing women accompanied by pray and singing in a ten year 'reign' (1900-1910). Smashing beer kegs wasn't her only cause; she also stood against tobacco and for woman's suffrage (the right for women to vote).
A strange place to be, it would seem, watching a pageant that celebrates such a character of the American landscape.

The Carry Nation festival was founded by Ardath Regan, a local history teacher who wanted to bring something to her little village. "We were trying to figure out what we could do to cause some excitement in the community for the community," Regan said. "I had heard this story about Carry Nation being in Holly…..." Regan also created a play centered on Nation's 1908 visit to the village by the invitation of Holly resident Winifred Mott, president of the local Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).

According to a 1988 article featured in the Fenton Press, Nation's visit was a-typical of her visits to other beleaguered towns of alcohol drinking men….. "Nation would step off the train in Holly and make her first official stop at the Holly Hotel. Making a beeline for the bar, she then used her umbrella to send mugs of beer and other intoxicants crashing to the floor. Nation then saw the painting of a nude woman that hung behind Holly Hotel's bar.

"Naked Jezebel," Nation screamed.

By then, the landlord had grabbed Nation by the shoulders and was dragging her toward the exit. "Remove that wicked thing from your walls," Nation yelled. With that, the landlord pitched Nation into the street. "Don't darken my hotel again," he yelled.

Nation regrouped and proceeded to then raid several other watering holes along Battle Alley. The following morning, Nation was to speak at Baird's Opera House."

But Carry Nation was a bit more than a vandal, who would scream scriptures as she destroyed property. A self-styled 'home-defender', Nation was more than what was on the surface.

A fourth grader in Scranton, Kansas (the state where Nation lived and died), Jennifer Payne wrote this about her research into Nation's life and perhaps articulates most what the Holly festival and its pageant want to give the girls (who compete for Queen, Princess, Junior Princess, and Mini-Princess titles) who participate, something more than just a bit of excitement:

"Carry Amelia Moore Nation is much more than a blip in history. She has proven that when you believe in something enough, and stand up for yourself, anything is possible. I feel that getting to know more about her has made me a stronger person." Payne wrote, "I am no longer afraid to stand up for what I believe in. Standing strong to my own convictions gives me the power to change that which I feel needs changing and to look past that which I cannot."

It is often Carry Nation that is the name given to someone that is considered a crusader, who stands out against the tides of commonality and stands upon values that they hold dear.

I saw an embodiment of such spirit last night….in the bravery and outspoken declaration of a fifteen year-old woman who accepted Christ as her Savior not so long ago. She spoke loudly about it to the crowd gathered to watch the Carry Nation Pageant at Holly High School last night.

She sang a song by MercyMe, though the MC announced it wrong. He seemed surprised as he read the introduction to this young girl's expression of her beliefs……"Holly is proud to be a follower of Jesus Christ."

A teenage woman stepped onto the stage and sang her heart out to the crowd about what being a Christian meant to her. The words, the lyrics, embodied her desire that hasn't diminished since that night not so long ago where she declared herself in need of a Savior and claimed the One who was able to bring her that redemption. The rejection of one's self in favor of Christ…..

Her hair done in an 'up-do' hairstyle ( the only one there with her hair so) and wearing a beautiful black and white gown, she stretched herself beyond the walls of her comfort zone and sang. She was nervous, but certain. She relaxed as she performed for the audience and gave glory to her Heavenly Father.

Unafraid of standing in a crowd of her peers and community and say loud and clear, "I am a believer and this is why."

She worked on the things she had been told last year that caused her not to be selected and succeeded in showing that she had learned the confidence and the strength necessary to overcome them. She hit her marks, was elegant in her answers, and proud to be who she is.

She shined. There was no emulation of Nation's destructive methodology in her appearance, but an exclamation of Nation's crusading spirit…….

"This is who I am."

And in the end, when the 'votes' of the judges were tallied, she stood on the stage with her fellow contestants and waited the results. Then she did the hardest thing in such a situation and the bravest thing one could ever do: She gave honor to the one who was chosen instead of her to be the Junior Princess.

I think the judges missed their assignment. If the winners of the categories were selected based on their emulation of Nation's crusader spirit, the young woman who took the Junior Princess crown wasn't the best choice in my opinion. Maybe this young woman I know doesn't crusade up and down the streets opposing the inhalation of liquor in the dark recesses of the local bars.

But she crusaded for a higher cause and wasn't afraid to declare it.

And, even after the spotlights had dimmed and the focus was off, she continued to show her spirit. Her mom told me when I inquired after her daughter that this young woman said the one thing that I think Carry Nation would have been proud of:

"You taught me never to quit."

Holly Marie Fisher walked off the stage uncrowned at last night's event. And, in the twilight of the evening, she showed that she doesn't need to wear a fancy crown to be who she is:

A princess in the Kingdom of God.

And ……her Heavenly Father beamed with pride.

"This is my beloved daughter, with whom I am well pleased!"

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