Maeystown Creek usually is a tame few inches of picturesque water rippling over bedrock as it runs down the bluffs from a spring and curls around the tiny town in southern Monroe County.
But occasionally it flashes an ugly side, like it did in the early morning hours of May 1, the day of the Maeystown Fruehlingsfest, an outdoor antiques festival that occurs beside the creek. Nearly four inches of localized rain in two hours sent the creek raging out of its banks and flooded the festival, which had been set up Saturday.
Antiques, tents, tables, chairs and umbrellas went floating away with the night watchman for the festival in pursuit.
“We always hire a night watchman,” said Anita Muertz, one of the festival organizers. “He was frantic trying to save merchandise and the tables and chairs.”
Making things worse was that the festival had tables and chairs right by the creek so more people could enjoy it, like former attendees had suggested. They had even planned on having tables and chairs in the creek. That was how tame the water usually is.
Writing about the event in the Maeystown Preservation Society’s newsletter, “The Volksblatt,” Muertz said the association always advertises the festival as “rain or shine.”
This was to be the ultimate test.
“Luckily the water receded quickly but left a mess,” she said. “It was up and down really quick. It was so strange. Four inches of rain in two hours. No one else around here had it. This is my hometown. As a girl, I’ve seen it out some, but I have never seen the creek out of its banks on the festival side.”
There was water in the lowest level of the mill-museum. Three tents were destroyed along with merchandise and gravel poured down from the streets into the festival area.
Folks rallied quickly. By 3:30 a.m. a backhoe was moving gravel back to where it belonged. People with shovels and wheelbarrows helped move other gravel that had flowed into tents. People helped tow vehicles out of the mud. They put down boards and spread straw. Ruts were shoveled and filled, Muertz said.
Everyone was so kind and generous. There was no complaining at all. The vendors were wonderful. The food still sold out.
Anita Muertz, one of the festival organizers
The show went on.
“Everyone was so kind and generous,” Muertz said. “There was no complaining at all. The vendors were wonderful. The food still sold out. We have an (insurance) policy for these events. No one has made a claim yet.”
They did abandon the tables-in-the-creek plan though. Maybe next year.
She said the next weekend some kids walked the creek and found a table umbrella down by the Mississippi River levee.
“The joke is that some of the stuff must be in Memphis,” she said.
Muertz, Lynn Blockyou and John Rehling also wrote about Greg Eddings, from Pine Horse Antiques in New Athens, who was hit hard with many of his items washed away.
Eddings walked down the creek to see if he could retrieve anything. He said he retreated when he heard delighted squeals from children finding small stuffed animals and toys in the brush by the creek.
When organizers offered to retrieve the items, Eddings refused, saying that the kids should get to have the experience of finding magic in the creek.
“Those children will never forget this creek experience for the rest of their lives, and neither will we,” the authors wrote in the newsletter.