Written and created by Mackenzie Cottles, Marketing Intern for SEDA
Helen Keller is known throughout history as a woman who defied many odds and became wildly successful, even though she was both deaf and blind. Anne Sullivan, Helen's teacher, dedicated herself to finding a way for Helen to communicate the thoughts that ran rapidly through mind.At a water pump with water flowing over Helen's hand, Ms. Sullivan repeatedly tapped out an alphabet code for the word "water" in Helen's other hand. Once the communication barrier broke in Helen's mind, she was eager to learn as many words as she could. This led to her learning how to read braille and eventually how to speak some as well. Helen and Anne were two very brave women who both worked extremely hard for Helen to be able to communicate with others and to advocate for improving conditions for those who were blind and deaf. "The Miracle Worker" is how Anne Sullivan is remembered for providing a way out for a child who was lost in complete darkness.
Helen was from Tuscumbia, Alabama, one of the four main cities in the Shoals. Her family home, Ivy Green, is now a museum. The Helen Keller Festival happens every June and celebrates Helen's life. There are many activities that take place from Monday to Sunday. From a parade to music in the park, there is always something happening. I experienced a lot of what this festival has to offer on Saturday, one of the busiest days.
My day started off by hearing my roommate come back into our house. This may seem irrelevant, but she is a runner who had just completed the Helen Keller Festival run. It is one of her favorite races to run because of the small-town atmosphere that surrounds it, but more importantly because it commemorates an amazing woman. She particularly loved that when she finished, the car show was just starting, so music was playing everywhere, and she was able to walk to get coffee and breakfast with her family who came out to support. After hearing Kara talk about how the festival was already beginning to buzz, I knew it was going to be a great day. I got ready and headed to downtown Tuscumbia where all the action was happening.
The main street in downtown Tuscumbia, where the car show was taking place, was filled with cars of all kinds. Cars were packed in for at least three blocks. As with most car shows, the owners sit near their vehicles, so you can easily strike up a conversation about the car's life story that often intertwines with the owners'. There was a man on a P.A. system announcing the winners of the raffle and people standing everywhere lost in conversation about many different things. This was the perfect picture of our community coming together to spend time with and learn from one another. I stopped to get some outstanding donuts and went next door to grab some iced coffee to go along with them. Walking down main street was another testimony to how unique and special our community is.
After experiencing everything downtown, I drove to Ivy Green, Helen Keller's home. This home has been turned into a museum showcasing the life Helen lived as a child. You can see all of the main house, including the upstairs bedroom that Helen locked Anne in- causing Anne to climb out of the window. You can also see the kitchen and where the cooked lived, as well as see and touch the actual water pump where Helen learned to communicate. There is also the guest house where Anne and Helen lived for a time and the stage for the "Miracle Worker" play, which tells Helen's life story, that shows every Friday and Saturday for most of the summer. Being at Ivy Green is more than just seeing some artifacts. When you take into account the fact that Helen was not able to see and hear the things that you are while walking around on the grounds, it becomes a truly incredible experience.
The final event of the night was a concert in Spring Park, located about 5 blocks from Helen's home. The big name for the night was county singer, Tanya Tucker. Before she performed, local talent took the stage and showcased the rich talent base that makes up our community. This was a relaxed event where everyone brought their own lawn chairs and sat back to have a good time. Although it was hot outside, this was the perfect ending to a day spent celebrating the achievements of Ms. Helen Keller.