Under the early morning sun Saturday, Hobson City residents, current and former, gathered together near the community center in pink shirts to participate in the annual Heritage Day 5k.
While some ran the entire course, others walked while making notes of the signs of progress and rebirth, residents said.
At 77 years old Katie Pyles has seen Hobson City grow, decline and slowly grow again, she said. Pyles is a third-generation Hobson City resident, she said.
“My grandmother moved here when she was 5,” Pyles said. “I’ve been here most all my life. The only time I left was when my husband was in the service and I moved with him. We wanted to move back though and we did.”
Pyles said she remembered when Hobson City was “a booming town.”
“We don’t have everything we had back then but we’re coming back,” she said with a smile on her face.
She said she learned how hard it was for the town’s founders to get the town going, but the residents back then were dedicated.
“We are too,” Pyles said.
As the runners and walkers took to the pavement, tents popped up around Hobson City Park for the homecoming reunion. Mayor Alberta McCrory said the events and celebration encourage those who have moved away to “come home.”
“We’ve placed a great importance on historic preservation, and we’re looking and reaching out to those who lived and worked here,” she said. “This gives them an opportunity to come home and share their stories.”
Johnny Ford, founder of the nonprofit Black Towns and Settlements Alliance, said the event not only encourages preservation of culture but also encourages those in the community to be proud of it.
“We want events like these to overshadow all the violence and hate,” he said. “It’s a good day to be in Hobson City.”
Marticia Carmichael Randall, 51, was a former resident who returned for the reunion.
“I was born and raised here,” she said. “I’ve been coming back from Virginia every year they’ve been having the reunion.”
Randall said she has fond memories of her first job at the Ross Handy Mart. The store, although recently under new ownership, remained Saturday on the same corner lot along the main drag through town.
“There used to be a skating rink,” Randall said. “There used to be things for us to do that kept us out of trouble. I’m looking forward to those possibilities again for this town. I’m looking forward to that unity.”
Pyles said she sees progress in the community and she hopes to live long enough to see the young kids move back in as teachers, doctors and preachers.
“I think we will thrive again and my intention is to be here to see it happen.”