Founders’ Day and a weeklong schedule of events leading to it will return on Aug. 28 after a year’s hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Founders’ Day, which began in 1963, commemorates the hot fourth Saturday in August 1959 when the late Lee Seldon Jones distributed free deeds to building lots in New Eddyville to any resident or business in Old Eddyville being displaced by the impoundment of Lake Barkley.

Jones grew up very poor in the Bend of the Rivers section of Lyon County. His mother, Rosa Holt Jones, died when he was 9 and his father, Benny E. Jones, died when he was 15. After his father’s death, Lee lived wherever he could until he graduated from Kuttawa High School. He then borrowed $50 and enrolled at Western Kentucky State Teachers College in Bowling Green. He graduated in 1924, taught school for two years and saved enough money to go to law school. After receiving his law degree from the University of Michigan in 1929, he became a successful attorney in Louisville, but he never forgot his home county. And in the late 1950s when talk of a dam on the Cumberland River and a lake that would flood Eddyville and Kuttawa, he began buying large tracts of farmland in the Fairview community with the intent of offering a site to relocate anyone who was displaced.

After the city of Eddyville decided to relocate on the land Jones offered, he told a friend he had visions of his friends “just flying off in all directions, and the towns being lost forever, and he felt he had to do something.” The something he did resulted in the relocation of Eddyville in the early 1960s. Jones attended Founders’ Day every year until his health failed, and he always had a new white suit tailored to wear in the parade.

Mayor John Choat, a citizens committee and the city’s staff, were determined Founders’ Day would not fall by the wayside. Now they are bringing it back stronger than before the pandemic.

“We’ve got a good comeback schedule; we’ve got a lot of good events and entertainment,” Choat said, noting he was forced to cancel the event last year. “… Unfortunately, I had the luck of being the mayor to have to do that. I’m hoping we can use Founders’ Day to come together as a community and get back together in person and visit with one another and just be good citizens of Lyon County. We want people to enjoy this; we’re putting a lot of work into it and it’s also a financial investment.

Choat is hoping for a “great turnout” for all the events. He especially cited the community church service in the city park on Wednesday, Aug. 25 at 7 p.m. Josh Patton, pastor of First Baptist Church will speak, and other churches also will be involved.

“We all love our community so just come out and have a good time with your friends and neighbors and enjoy the fellowship,” Choat said.

The worship service will be followed by an ice cream social. Ice cream bars will be served to reduce handling.

“I’m glad things have gotten to the point with regard to COVID that we can do this,” he said, urging those who are still unvaccinated to get the vaccine, which is readily available. “It is just so important.”

Choat said all events will comply with the CDC and health department guidelines.

He expressed appreciation to Lake Barkley Tourist Commission and its director, Debi Dodd, for their assistance. The tourist commission is not only assisting with the work and planning, but also has made a financial investment in the weeklong festival. The mayor also praised the Founders’ Day Committee: the Rev. Jed Ramey of Fairview United Methodist Church, Librarian Leeann Cummins, Malcolm Lane, Jerry “Butch” Padgett who is putting on a car show from 4 to 8 p.m. Aug. 27, Mike Oliver, Police Chief Jaime Green and assistant City Clerk Linda Williams and all city staff.

Dodd said she is “very excited” about the return of the celebration and its events.

“Tourism and the city have collaborated very well this year,” she said. “We’ve upped the budget for the festival, so we’re hoping it’s going to be bigger and better, and we want to keep it going forward. We’ve got a wonderful lineup of all kinds of activities, and we’re really looking forward to it.”

Dodd predicted the crowds are likely to be larger than normal because people are eager to return to normalcy after missing a year. Even now, she is seeing more people visiting the Lakeland.

“Our weekend crowds in Lyon County are unbelievable,” she said. “It’s packed; it’s wonderful, and a lot of our visitors are actually coming from (elsewhere) in Kentucky. They are not going far; they are staying closer to home, which I think is wonderful because we have a beautiful state and a lot to offer. Some visitors are coming from eastern Kentucky and some are from the Bowling Green area.”

The events culminating with Founders’ Day begin with the Miss Founders’ Day Contest on Aug. 21. Registration is at 5 p.m. and the competition begins at 6 p.m. The event will be in the middle school gymnasium, which is air-conditioned, the mayor said. The Lyons Club Citizen of the Year dinner is set for 6 p.m. Aug. 26 at the Lee S. Jones Building. Connie Riley will receive this year’s Citizen award. Choat said he has not yet chosen the grand marshal of the parade, which will step off at 11 a.m. on Founders’ Day from the school parking lot, march south on Fairview Avenue, turn left onto West Main Street and disband at the city park.

At 7 p.m. or dusk, Aug. 26, the committee will host Movies in the Park with free popsicles and ice cream bars.

On Friday, Aug. 27, WKYQ will feature live remote broadcasts from 3 to 5 p.m. The cruise in on West Main Street is set from 4 to 8 p.m.; acclaimed Grand Rivers musician Stanley Walker will perform from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Senior Citizens Center; Cat Daddy will perform on the main stage from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and from 8 to 10 p.m. Keith Burns/Presley & Taylor will perform. The professional stage with a professional sound system will be set up at Commerce Street and Dale Avenue, the mayor said.

Founders will begin with a 5k run at 8 a.m., which is a new event this year. A pancake breakfast is on tap for 8 to 10:30 a.m. at Lee Jones Park. Akridge Farm Supply will sponsor its traditional three on three basketball tournament at 8:30 a.m. on the courthouse parking lot. At 9 a.m. Fredonia Valley Bank will provide free watermelon at its Commerce Street site. Also at 9 a.m., the Lyon County Animal Hospital and Williams Veterinary Clinic will sponsor a pet show on the courthouse lawn, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Barnyard Buddies will have animals in the city park. Free inflatables will be set up next to City Hall from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from noon to 5 p.m. a mobile gaming trailer featuring video games will be open next to the fire department.

At 12:15 p.m. following the parade, Choat will speak in a brief ceremony honoring the Citizen of the Year, Connie Riley, and the parade’s grand marshal.

Joppa Lodge No. 167 will provide free watermelon at 2 p.m. in the city park. The day will close with concerts by Clayton Quisenberry from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and Kentucky Headhunters from 8 to 10 p.m.