HOBSON CITY — As a child in nearby Heflin, Rita Chandler visited Hobson City often with her family. Founded in 1899, the history of one of the oldest black incorporated towns in the country left an impression on her.
The town still does more than 30 years later and she does whatever she can to support it.
“It’s keeping alive the history of this area and doing that is important because you never want your history to die out,” Chandler said as she walked along one of Hobson City’s quiet roads Saturday morning. “It’s a legacy that needs support.”
Chandler was one of around 40 people who participated in the annual Hobson City Heritage 5K Run/Walk on Saturday. And they were just a fraction of the hundreds of people who turned out for the community reunion afterward at J.R. Striplin Park — the capstone for the town’s weeklong Heritage Festival to celebrate its 119th birthday.
“It just shows me that we have a lasting culture and we always come together as a community to support our own,” Chandler said of the annual event.
The 5K event was held to kick off the day’s festivities of cookouts and fellowship, but also to raise money for the Hobson City Public Library.
“We’re just trying to support different things we do, buy books and just upgrade the facility,” said Sharron Thomas, director of the library.
Thomas said the library is an active part of the community.
“We just finished our summer reading program and had 140 people sign up,” Thomas said. “And we do outreach … we had the Anniston Career Center come to do resume writing.”
Saturday was the first time Patricia Cathey had attended the Hobson City 5K or any of the festival events. Cathey said she just recently moved to Oxford and befriended Chandler, who convinced her to join the run on Saturday.
“I’m excited about learning more about Hobson City,” Cathey said.
Bobby Forbes lives in North Carolina but grew up in Hobson City and tries to visit whenever he can.
“This is where I grew up, right here, rollerskating,” Forbes said, pointing down the road as he walked in the 5K. “This is home.”
A former Hobson City town council member, Forbes said he’s proud of the town and the ongoing Heritage Festival.
“You come back and celebrate each other and that we’re still here and that we haven’t forgotten where we came from,” Forbes said. “Hobson City is still here and people still care.”
While the run wrapped up, Hobson City native Reginald Jones cooked chicken, hamburgers and ribs on a grill hooked to the back of a pickup truck in Striplin Park. All around him, residents and visitors pitched tents to prepare for a day of fun.
“It’s just a thing we do, everybody comes together,” Jones said of the Heritage Festival. “It’s a good thing and you meet great, different people.”
Jones said the festival helps put Hobson City’s name and history out to the general public.
“It gives us some notoriety, so people don’t just hear about Anniston and Oxford,” Jones said.
Kahlil Anglen came from Cleveland to mingle at the festival and visit with family on Saturday. Anglen said his mother is from Hobson City and his 103-year-old great grandmother still lives in the town.
“I come down here and I love it,” Anglen said. “Where I’m from, people can be living 5 hours apart but everyone is close here and they’ve got all their cousins nearby.”