“People here like it like it is,” said Bob Merrell, who has been the town’s mayor for 35 years. “They’re not interested in growth, more traffic or more population or any of the things that come with growth. It changes very little.”
The town’s residents will gather today for the 25th annual Roopville Homecoming Festival, remembering their past and celebrating what the town is today: small, quiet and peaceful.
With about 206 residents in a 2009, Roopville has grown by about 30 people in the past 10 years. But that’s still fewer than the 1990 population of 248.
Instead of trying to grow, the residents of Roopville try to improve what they have, said Emily Huckabee, a Roopville resident since she was 5 years old.
“Everybody really cares about each other,” Huckabee said. “It’s a wonderful place. It has retained it’s smallness, it’s uniqueness.”
Located about 10 miles south of Carrollton, the town offers a small water system, fire department, post office and free garbage pick-up once a week. There is a Carroll County Sheriff’s Office precinct, but Merrell said the town doesn’t try to have city police.
The city water service is not large enough to serve everyone in town, and some people use well water. No one will be added to the water service because city officials don’t think the system can handle any more, Merrell said.
“We maintain everything in town from the streets to the street lights,” Merrell said.
He said he has traveled, joined the military and lived in Atlanta, but “there’s no comparison” to Roopville.
“We’re the right distance from Carrollton to go in, get what we need and retreat,” he said. “It’s peaceful and there is no crime.”
Highway 27 once ran right through the middle of Roopville. But when the highway was widened, it was moved away from town. The residents didn’t mind.
“We still have an awful lot of traffic, but nothing like it would have been if 27 came right through town,” said Judson Bell, who has lived in town for 70 years.
Bell said his father owned a store in town, but became a farmer and trucker when people were unable to pay their bills. Bell said farming was much harder than running the store.
“There are a lot of horse farms in Roopville now,” Bell said. “It reminds me of a Norman Rockwell drawing. The people are still walking and riding bikes in the evening.”
He said two community dogs live in the town.
“They walk with different people who are walking and they visit different homes,” Bell said. “I don’t know if anyone really owns them, but everyone loves them.”
Bell said no matter where he has been, he always tries to return home.
“It’s the best place to live, I think, with the best people,” he said. “There’s a saying, ‘It’s better to see a sermon than to hear one’ and I got to see a lot of sermons here.
“No matter where I go, I tell them I’m from Roopville. They may not know where it is, but they do when I’m done talking about it,” Bell said.
Roopville o nce had a high school, and Keith Jackson, the popular, award-winning sportscaster who is now retired, went there. The school’s boys basketball team won a state high school championship in 1959.
Every year, on the same night as the Roopville Homecoming Festival, the members of the Roopville High classes return, said Huckabee.
“Roopville is special and very unique,” she said. “We try to preserve what we have and remember those who came before us.”
Barry Huff, president of the Roopville Historical Society, said he noticed some changes from when he went to school in Roopville to when he returned eight years ago.
“On the walk to school, all the old-timers were sitting in front of the old stores playing checkers and telling stories,” Huff said. “I miss that and I think the whole community does.”
Huff said everyone, even the checker players, would attend every function at Roopville High School.
“There was a lot going on in the community then,” Huff said.
The town had more stores, including its own shoe store. Many of the old store buildings are gone now, he said.
“The community’s really grown. Where people were farming the land, people have houses now,” Huff said.
Huff said today’s festival will have about 90 vendors selling food, arts and crafts. There will be food throughout the day.
“We’re going to have one of the biggest parades we’ve ever had,” he said.
The parade will be led by the Central High School marching band, as it has been for years. The Historical Society and the town of Roopville raised $8,000 to help the band’s trip to the Rose Parade in January.
Huckabee said last year’s fifth grade Roopville Elementary students will be the grand marshals of the parade this year because they painted a mural of Roopville’s history on the side of the Roopville Historical Society building.
“It really is a work of art,” Huckabee said. The students picked a piece of Roopville history that interested them, wrote a paper about it and painted small murals. A plaque with all the children’s names was added.
“We have entertainment all the way up to five o’clock,” Huckabee said. Performances from the Roopville Elementary chorus and orchestra will be intermingled with gospel, bluegrass and other music genres.
“We do have a lot of really good entertainment lined up,” she said.
The parade will end at about 10:45 a.m., in time for the opening ceremony at the public pavilion. The flag will be raised and the national anthem will be sung.
Part of today’s festival will take place around The Roop House, a restored centerpiece of the town that is used for community meetings and weddings.
“It’ll be a wonderful day,” Huckabee said.
“We’re very proud of Roopville. We work together and a lot of good things come from our efforts ... including this festival,” she said.
“I’ve always been proud I grew up in Roopville, graduated from Roopville High School and taught at Roopville Elementary for 30 years.”