It's about time to get out the party hats in Clatonia.

The Gage County community is commemorating the 125th anniversary of its founding with a three-day celebration this weekend, July 13-15.

Friday will feature a kid's parade, food catered by Lefty's, a celebration kick-off, music and a fireworks show at the Clatonia Community Center. Saturday is the busiest of the three days, with a tractor show, car show, kid's activities, kickball tournament, quilt display and more. On Sunday, a softball tournament will take place, in addition to a historical tour at Legends of Clatonia Bar & Grill and a kiddie tractor pull, among other planned activities.

Preparation for such a festival has been a two-year process, said Glenna Heller, Clatonia-resident and secretary of the Cardinal Club, a local organization that raised funds for the event.

"To me, it's a celebration of a small town that has continued to exist and that continues to show support and compassion for the citizens," said Heller. "Even though we have new people moving into town, we still have a core group of people that have ties to the community and we have quite a few young people moving back into the community, and everybody is just really supportive."

The Cardinal Club hosted spaghetti dinners and pancakes feed to raise money for the celebration.

"We started with fundraisers to be able to charge nothing or very little for our events," Heller said. "The community has been very supportive in that."

The three-day event is being held in conjunction with an alumni banquet the town hosts every three years, honoring graduates of Clatonia High School. The school graduated its last class in 1965, before consolidating with Wilber. The banquet is from 6-9 p.m. at the community center.

Heller said it already has over 180 reservations.

"I think, with other local people attending, we'll be in good shape," said Heller.

Clatonia, population 231, was officially incorporated on Dec. 3, 1893, following the establishment of the Rock Island Railroad line from Chicago to Denver in 1892 and 1893. That line opened up the town to Lincoln and elsewhere, according to a town history published as part of the Virtual Nebraska history project at the University of Nebraska.

Soon, a grocery store, lumberyard and bank followed. The town's brick high school was constructed in 1924 and torn down in 1972, following consolidation with Wilber seven years prior. The high school's gym is now the town's community center.

While she doesn't know if the town is growing, Heller said she believes the town will remain active as it is.

"Whenever there's a house available, someone snatches it up," she said. 

A number of historical souvenirs honoring the town will be on sale during this weekend's celebration, like a DVD featuring interviews of longtime Clatonia residents or original residents and a memory book printed for the town's 100th anniversary. 

On Friday night, music will be provided by Emily Spilker at the community center at 8 p.m., with the Ashton Dugan Band performing at Legends, Saturday night. 

For those wishing to play in the softball or kickball tournament, one can register on the day of the event with a minimal tourney fee. 

Heller expects the celebration to be a successful salute to the town she's called home for nearly 40 years.

"It won't be a Czech festival by any means," Heller said. "But I think we'll be pleased."

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