Ruritans hope to put Whaleyville back on map

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 9, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

No longer content to be the &uot;red-headed stepchild of Suffolk, the Whaleyville community and their Ruritan Club is promoting May 8th as a day of fun and fellowship, and they are inviting the entire population of Suffolk to visit their picturesque little town.

Located on Route 13 (Carolina Highway) just south of downtown Suffolk, Whaleyville was once a unique and thriving community, filled with &uot;mom and pop&uot; stores and good ol’ down home friendly people.

Email newsletter signup

While the businesses are down to J&L Market, the friend people still abound. Never too busy to stop and chat, they take great pride in their little community and they want others to see how country can be &uot;cool.&uot;

Taking on the responsibility of hosting a party for the community are the Whaleyville Ruritans, with Jeff Colley and Dean Russell serving as co-chairmen of the day-long May 8th, &uot;Community Day&uot; event.

Russell, as the song goes, was &uot;country when country wasn’t cool,&uot; and he’s got the twang in his speech to prove it. He was born and raised right on Whaleyville Boulevard and still lives less than five miles from his birthplace. Comfortable in his jeans, cap and denim jacket, he is never without a smile and a friendly hello.

Colley is a total contrast with his pressed chinos, white shirt and stylish sunglasses. It’s obvious at first glance that this city boy just arrived on the scene from Tidewater. While he’s into all type of high tech computer programs and other technology, he’s also a friend to anyone who comes within earshot.

Strangely enough, it was not only their affable manner that brought prompted friendship between the two; they are quick to point out that they are the perfect choice to stage Whaleyville’s Community Day.

&uot;We complete each other because while he’s a generational Whaleyville resident, with his great-great grandfather having been here, I’m fairly new,&uot; said Colley, an engineer with Hewlett-Packard. &uot;I am a member of the Whaleyville Ruritans and I’m just glad I have the skills to help put on our Community Day.&uot;

Russell, the great-great grandson of the man who fired the boiler at the old Whaleyville sawmill, is also the grandson of the former butcher in the little town. Russell is also the son of Parker Russell, a retired forester most recognized as &uot;Smokey the Bear,&uot; and the barber of Whaleyville, who still lives right on the main drag through the town. As for Dean Russell; he’s the local repairman whose claim to fame is that he can fix anything.

Russell added that with his knowledge of the town and its people, he and Colley are &uot;re-inventing the wheel&uot; when it comes to putting Whaleyville back on the map.

&uot;We represent the Whaleyville Ruritans and we are on a mission to promote community pride and to bring other citizens of Suffolk out here to enjoy a day of good, clean family fun suitable for any age,&uot; said Russell. &uot;We hope to see re-vitalization in our community. We once had four businesses and they are gone now.&uot;

In contrast, our population has nearly doubled and we want people in Suffolk to know we are here.&uot;

Russell praised city officials in Suffolk, especially City Manager Steve Herbert, who have been of great help and encouragement on the Community Day event.

As for the event; the Whaleyville Ruritans are currently looking for people to participate in a dog show.

&uot;We are working toward a working dog trial demonstration for the event, and we are also going to have the best looking dog and ugliest dog contests,&uot; said Colley. &uot;Anyone who would like to show their dog should contact us as soon as possible. Owners should have their pets leashed and all dogs must be current with vaccinations and be well mannered.&uot;

Another show will feature cars and entries into that event will be accepted up to 11 a.m. the day of the event, May 8, although Russell said it is best to reserve a spot before the show.

No community day is ever complete without arts and crafts and business expos, and there will be plenty of each. Many Whaleyville residents are participating in this event – people like Franklin Jackson, who will have a blacksmithing demonstration. Linard Jones will have an exhibit of toys and collectibles while Winston Robinson will show off his hand-crafted birdhouses and other woodcrafts. The &uot;Whaleyville Whittler&uot; will bring out some of his finest works including his hand carved ducks.

Colley’s wife, Michelle, is exhibiting &uot;Creative Memories Scrapbooking&uot; to the event. Emily Vinson will be showing her quilts and wall hangings.

More than 25 vendors and many local businesses have already reserved a spot in the May 8 Community Day including Tracinda’s Treasures, Homemade Gourmet, I’ve Got Math Covered, Kimpert Jewelry, Daniels Home Services, and Sharon the Face Painter.

When you visit the May 8th celebration, be sure to come hungry. The Whaleyville Volunteer Fire Department will also host their annual Fish Fry from 4 to 7 p.m. Proceeds from that event help the fire department and the community.

Sponsors have joined the Whaleyville Ruritans to promote the quaint little community. Lowe’s was one of the first, followed by the Farmer’s Bank. Any business, industry, club or individual who would like to become a sponsor should call Colley or Russell. For more information on this event, call Colley at 986-2282, or Russell at 986-2231.