New festival committee chair brings energy to position
Max Atwell's approach to life has made him a community resource.
"It's a philosophy of mine to stay active mentally and physically," the retired fireman said.
Atwell has found plenty of opportunities to practice his philosophy within the community. He served as DeSoto's fire chief in the 1970s, spent 20 years on the DeSoto school board and help found the local saddle club, the DeSoto Pioneer Riders.
Last week, the community resource added another item to his resume when he agreed to replace Marge Morse as chairman of the DeSoto Watermelon Festival.
"They coerced me," Atwell joked. "I'm retired, so supposedly I have all this free time. I figure if I get a lot of help, I can delegate a lot."
Morse said Atwell set himself up for the appointment when he volunteered to help with the event this year.
"He helped Pat Atchison with the parade and he wasn't even on the (festival) committee," she said. "He just does everything you ask of him so well and with such a good attitude.
"I think Max will be a wonderful chairperson. He has the time, and he knows the people who get things done."
Morse's offer to make her experience available to him made his decision to accept the position easier, Atwell said. The transition should also go smoother because a number of committee members have agreed to stay on, he said.
"We would just like to make it a little bit bigger every year take away what doesn't work and add something new," he said.
The Saturday craft fair certainly worked this year. It attracted 68 vendors, a three-fold increase from 1999. But brutal afternoon heat made the event uncomfortable for vendors and customers alike.
To address the problem, the festival committee is considering renting large tents and fans for the vendor area. The committee is also considering renting tents equipped with mist sprayers to give festival attendees a respite from the heat.
The rentals will depend on money, and Atwell knows fund-raising will be a large part of his job the coming year.
"We need to try to figure out some innovative things to do," he said. "Merchants help, but in a small community like DeSoto, an awful lot of people tap into businesses all for good causes."
The festival could be scheduled for the fall, but Atwell said there are advantages to the late August date. School events and other community festivals start filling the calendar in September and October, he said.
The festival has a contract with Evans Midland Empire Carnival to return the last weekend in August next year. Atwell said.
Atwell said he knows he will need help in his new job and asked residents to remember they get the kind of community they make.
"I said when I campaigned for the school board, 'I think it's everybody's responsibility to be involved in community activities.' This community has given me a nice place to live, and I think I need to repay them."