By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe
The Mill Family Reunion, held on a cold and wet October day, moved indoors this year, where attendees could stay out of the elements, have refreshments, visit with friends and family, and take a self-guided tour of parts of the building. According to Alysse Thomas, hospitality and events coordinator for Paper City LLC, the self-guided tours worked well and allowed “attendees to take their time reminiscing about the experience at The Mill.”
Around 200 people attended this year’s event, which was themed “Field of Dreams.” “We had a baseball-inspired celebration with popcorn, pretzel, cotton candy and hot dog stations,” says Thomas. “Also, Jackie Koney was there signing and selling copies her book, “It Takes More than Balls,” which is a women’s guide to all things baseball. Larry Forsyth made wooden card boxes that were given as gifts or “souvenirs.”
Chris Moore, the driving force behind Paper City LLC and the Mill Project, spoke to the crowd about the progress made since the project’s inception and the plans for the future.
Always woven into Moore’s conversations are his respect for the history of the building and his recognition of the efforts of those who worked within its walls. His audience can sense his genuine passion for the preservation of the building and its rich history.
Former mill employee Roger Royer appreciates not only Moore’s work at the Mill, but also his “numerous contributions in the downtown of Vicksburg.” Royer, who spent time in economic development, adds that he has “a fond appreciation for those who are willing to risk their personal treasure for the betterment of community.”
Leeanne Seaver, local author and photographer, also attended the indoor event. “The family reunion at the Mill was so great this year because we were all inside the Mill. We got to see the progress close-up… walk through it at our own pace and have a spontaneous conversation with others who were and are a part of the Mill story,” Seaver said. “As someone who never worked there, my connections are all present day. That’s the extraordinary part of the Mill story—it’s still unfolding, and still bringing us together as a community.”
Royer agrees, saying the building is “more than a historic edifice, it is perhaps a true representation of what has been Vicksburg’s past and more importantly what will be its future.”
Many people helped with the event, including John Kern, Prairie Ronde Artist Residency director, who stresses, “It’s an honor for us to provide this type of celebration to the people who have contributed in so many ways to Vicksburg through their work at the mill, both past and present.”
Thomas says the next Mill Family Reunion event will be held in the fall of 2024 in late September or early October.