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Reunion for historic neighborhoods
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There’s going to be a big party in one of Covington’s oldest neighborhoods Saturday, and organizers expect more than 1,000 people to attend.

The Sandhill-Texas Alley neighborhood reunion will be from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the intersection of West and Walnut streets, and for $30 per household, attendees can play games, ride horses, dance, have free health screenings and eat their fill of food, including pork chops, chicken, hot dogs, baked beans, potato chips, desserts, fruit and freeze pops.

While the event is a reunion for two of Covington’s historic black neighborhoods, it’s open to all.

Sandhill and Texas Alley are adjacent to each other off Washington Street, running from Dried Indian Creek to just west of Avery Street, according to city urban redevelopment plans.

Parking for the event will be available at the Washington Street Community Center and Grace United Methodist Church, and there will be golf-cart shuttles to the event; the carts were donated for use by local business Fat Boys Golf Carts.

Hendrix Circle and small sections of Carroll, Walnut and West streets will be blocked off from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The Rev. Avis Williams grew up in the area, and a couple of years ago she and some lifelong friends realized that they saw each other only at funerals. So, they decided to meet at a party instead and hosted the first neighborhood reunion in 2011. More than 850 people attended, Williams said.

She said it’s been a “wonderful community effort” to get the neighborhood ready for this year’s event, which will include a health fair.

As they started planning this year’s reunion, Williams said, organizers thought about doing a memorial for those who have passed away.

“Within the last two years, besides maybe three to four, most folks were in their 40s, 50s and 60s and something happened with their health. Especially in the African-American population, there are a lot of underinsured and uninsured,” said Williams, noting heart diseases and diabetes were common causes of death.

With the help of sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha and Walgreens, the health fair will offer free consultations with optometrists, dentists, cardiologists and family practice doctors. Some doctors will also be on hand to speak about sexually transmitted diseases and the potential consequences of choices, Williams said.

In memory of those who have passed away, organizers will tie a sheet around an old oak tree with a yellow ribbon and post photos of 24 neighborhood residents who died in the past two years. A memorial will take place at 3:30 p.m. The name of every deceased resident whom people can remember will be read aloud, followed by prayer and a release of balloons to “signify our loved ones’ spirits that still live on as they were released from here and taken up by God,” William said.

The reunion will kick off with music and singing, including gospel, contemporary and “old school” music, Williams said; a professional DJ will be on hand.

Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston is expected to read a proclamation, Williams said.

Games will include horseshoes, a bounce house, a water balloon toss, card and board games, horse rides and hayrides. The Covington Fire Department will be on hand with a fire engine and will talk about fire safety.
Williams said numerous local individuals and businesses have helped with time and donations.

Moving forward, Williams and others hope the community will continue to grow and develop its own historic brand, and a pamphlet about the area’s heritage could be in the works in the future.

For more information, call Williams at 404-379-5561.