Instead of their usual indoor gathering in the gym, attendees at Reunion Fest were spread out all over the field behind the Marshfield Community Center.
It looked different for the ninth-annual event, which was held on a Thursday (July 2), instead of a Friday this year.
"A lot of people couldn't make the Friday date," said Fraker. "Not only that, but with the whole COVID thing, it kind of changed some things, too. We did have people, though, who still wanted to have Reunion Fest, so we decided to go forward with it."
The outdoor space was big enough for everyone to spread out, which helped with social distancing, according to Fraker. They also purchased hand sanitizer and masks for people to use, if they wanted to. Fraker said they originally had about 60 classes that planned to have their reunion this year. However, as the COVID-19 situation continued, many of them postponed their class reunions.
"I think some of them are still planning to make small reunions," said Fraker. "The Class of '70 plans to do it next year. We anticipated a smaller turnout for this year’s Reunion Fest."
With the adjustments, Fraker said this year they watched their expenses and didn't do some things that they normally do. Instead of four or five bands performing, there were only two bands featured in the event, including Last Chance and White Oak Revival. They also had a few food vendors set up at the event.
"We saved a lot of money on expenses this year," said Fraker. "We didn't rent out the restroom trailer. We just used the restrooms in the facilities, which were adequate. We had a couple folks come up to us and say, 'If you're short on any money, then we'll pay for it. We'll make sure the bills will be paid.' We still have expenses, like the sound technician and things like that, but we're doing fine."
Normally, Fraker said they have a Reunion Fest booklet that honors all five-year anniversary classes, but they didn’t include it this year. They did, however, create a foldover program to honor the 2020 MHS Outstanding Alumnus, Jerry Ragsdale.
"We wanted to do something special for the Outstanding Alumni," said Fraker. "The program included a brief description about Jerry and information about past honorees of the Outstanding Alumni award."
Ragsdale, a MHS 1965 graduate, retired commander of the Texas Air National Guard and chief of staff for State Headquarters, Texas Air National Guard, Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas. He was the senior officer within the State Headquarters and acted on behalf of the adjutant general of Texas, supervising all Air National Guard units within the State. Ragsdale provided support to the National Guard Bureau and all assigned military forces, state or federal.
"A lot of people in the area know Jerry," said Fraker. "I think there have been about four generals in our U.S. military that have graduated from Marshfield High School, so that's quite an accomplishment. If you look up how many major generals there have been in the history of our nation, it’s just a few hundred. It's not like thousands, but Jerry joins the list of generals in Webster County."
Ragsdale attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He started his military career by receiving a commission through Officer Training School, Lackland Air Force Base in 1971. Assigned to the Texas Air National Guard, Hensley Field, Ragsdale served as the transportation management officer and civil engineer operations and maintenance officer. After serving as staff commander of the 136th Civil Engineering Squadron, he served on the State Headquarters’ staff as civil engineer and director of support. He has received over 15 awards, including the Legion of Merit award. Due to health issues, Ragsdale couldn’t make Reunion Fest, but his uncle, Phillip Ragsdale, accepted the award on his behalf.
"I could say a lot of things about Jerry," said Phillip. "I remember him playing basketball here at Marshfield. He helped me out on the farm lots of times. Jerry was really a good person. He was very dedicated, both in his military and civilian roles."
According to Fraker, each year since 2014, the MHS Reunion Fest committee has honored a graduate from Marshfield who has been an exceptional citizen and served their community and country.
"Ragsdale graduated from the Class of 1965," said Fraker. "I know that particular class planned to have their 55th reunion that night. We made plans back in February to begin Reunion Fest. They were one of the first ones that wanted to get together again this year and celebrate their time spent together back at Marshfield High School, but because of the COVID epidemic, they decided not to do that. They look forward to doing that in the future, as things develop."
As an honoree of the award, Ragsdale received a desk trophy from the MHS Reunion Fest committee. His name will also be enshrined on a plaque, alongside the other recipients of the MHS Outstanding Alumni Award, at the Marshfield High School Carl and Glessie Young Community Auditorium.