The question I was asked most when visiting Cherryvale, Kansas, for the rescheduled 2013 Blossom Fest was “how does the “real” town measure up compared to the fictional one?” Well, I have to say, both Gary and I agreed that we felt genuinely welcome, and as if we had arrived home. EVERYONE in Cherryvale was friendly, warm, genuine, funny, smart…well, I’m gushing, I know, but honestly, we had THE best time getting to know all of you. And if we didn’t get a chance to meet you, rest assured Gary and I fully expect to visit as often as possible.
To all our new friends who already feel like family, thank you so much for the warm welcome, we cannot wait to return!
Special thanks to Tina Cunningham, Joyce and Marvin Long, Louie and Donna Celaya, April and Alan Read, Andy Taylor, Crystal Harper, Elizabeth Bohr, Tracy Cunningham, Don Richardson, Jim Hogben, and of course, Richard Stevens for making our “adoption” weekend a success. Also, gracious thanks to the Montgomery County Chronicle, the Cherryvale Chamber of Commerce, the Cherryvale Blossom Fest organizers, New Hope Christian Church, and the Cherryvale Library. (Special thanks to Alan Read for providing some of the photos.)
Backstory: About a year ago, I got a message from a friendly guy, Richard Stevens, who had found me when googling “Cherryvale.” Because of my books set in fictional Cherryvale, I appeared again and again. So when he contacted me, I was curious about the “real” town, and when I clicked through, imagine my delight when I found out it was a Facebook group who all had roots in a town none other than Cherryvale, Kansas!
Richard graciously invited me to join their private group and I became an honorary Cherryvalian!
I scrolled through their posts and pictures as if I’d stumbled on a long lost friend. When I was imagining Cherryvale for my books, I pictured a quiet community where folks cared about each other, and had pride in their shared history, working shoulder to shoulder to make theirs, and their children’s, future better. And when I visited, that’s exactly what I found!
“Cherryvale, where neighbors care, gardeners share, and God allows do-overs.” is the motto for the fictional town, but could fit either one.
Here’s what I wrote BEFORE visiting:
The Kansas’ town’s iconic symbol, the cherry tree resonated with me, as did their motto, “Working for a better tomorrow today.”
Cherryvale is proud to be the birthplace of Vivian Vance (Ethel from “I Love Lucy”), so even both town’s Hollywood ties are similar. And to prove it really is a small world, Mary McDonough and I wrote of her experience taking “shoes advice” from Ms. Vance in Lessons from the Mountain.
I was struck by how similar the real town of Cherryvale and its folks seem to my characters, and I look forward to getting to know them.
Here are some pictures, and a bit about how all this came to pass (the photos are in no particular order.)
Click on the paper to expand.