Luckily, Elk Ridge Days (which, apparently, is a thing now) was last weekend. Immersion in a nice, friendly crowd and a couple of countrified meals was just the thing I needed to wipe the painful memories of workplace inactivity from my mind.
The parade was nice and short, with a few more glamorous floats than we've been treated to in the past. The bluegrass band didn't arrogantly turn up the mics so everyone within 20 miles could hear their tunes, but rather kept the volume to a perfect background-noise level so we could eat our pulled-pork sandwiches and chat without damaging our vocal cords. I easily could have parted with hundreds of dollars on jewelry and handcrafted wooden things at the country fair. There was even a Tilt-a-Whirl type ride (shaped like a strawberry) at the park.
And to top it all off, the weather was perfect.
But the best part of the whole celebration was the rampant Elk Ridge-ness. I've been to other city celebrations and while they're all unique and charming in their own way, they're also loud, overcrowded, and infested with cigarette smoke. Elk Ridge, even after 30 years of human habitation, can still put on a celebration without overwhelming its residents and bringing out the miscreants.
I knew I had a good thing going while I was growing up here. But it's an even bigger blessing, perhaps, that every time I come back for a visit, everything is the same as I left it. This place continues to attract and breed good, down-to-earth people. There are still no sidewalks on the roads. It's still quiet and peaceful, and the stars are always easy to find at night.
Sure, there are houses in places that used to be weedy fields, and occasionally another pointless stop sign will unexpectedly appear, but Elk Ridge is still Elk Ridge. It still feels like the home I grew up in, even though I belong somewhere else now. Those mountains are always there to welcome me back when I turn onto Elk Ridge Drive, completely forgiving of the fact that I stopped growing there and had to move somewhere else. This town doesn't resent the fact that I have another home now; rather, it's always there to be the home I remember, whenever I need it.
Elk Ridge is pretty great like that.