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The BV Strong dinner was both a community event and an opportunity for friends to gather. From left to right, Mary Kate Coleman, Kelsey Kuehn, Anneliese DeKam, and Lauren Zanotto.

Buena Vista came together in the annual event known as BV Strong on the evening of Sept. 24 to commemorate the bonds that hold a community together. Some 450 tables lined Main Street, stretching all the way from U.S. Highway 24 to the Buena Vista Elementary School six blocks away. While heavy clouds and a chilling rain swept over Mount Harvard and descended into the Arkansas Valley, the damp breeze and showers could not stop the town of Buena Vista from celebrating.

Cheerful laughter and vibrant conversation floated freely on the mountain air amid the crowd of a couple thousand people.

Five years ago, the loss of a local family brought the town of Buena Vista together. On Monday, the memory of those lost was honored for the fifth straight year. Yet, this annual celebration is not only to remember those who were lost, but also to build bonds for the future. “Everyone is going to need somebody sometime,”  said Amy Lively, a chairwoman for the BV Strong Community Dinner. “An event like this where people learn how to sit down, hold hands, [and] share a meal. … This is an event that has momentum all year long.”

Lively said the event has changed slightly over the years, though not in spirit. “It has grown bigger. It has become more dear. The hosts (from each table) are bringing all the food this year. This is not to make it legalistic but to make it long-lasting. [So] we can pass it on to the next generation.”

Setup of some of the 450 tables
that stretched the length of the Buena Visa Main Street for the Sept. 24 BV Strong dinner.

Lively’s sentiments regarding strengthening bonds among community members were echoed by City Administrator Phillip Puckett. “The origin [of BV Strong] was rooted in a tragedy that prompted the community to come together,” Puckett said. “But the focus then and now [is] on the positive aspects of what it means to be in BV, and I think it has held true to that.”

As dinner was wrapping up, the dark clouds and damp wind encroaching on the event finally enveloped the town. Yet, as the rain fell and community members reached for their jackets, the sunshine filtered through the raindrops and revealed a brilliant rainbow above the Arkansas River. Nobody appeared deterred by the rain. Instead, everyone turned to face the colors. Food was shared, as were smiles, hugs and laughter. Children rode bikes and chased each other along the sidewalk.

A rainbow stretches across the setting on Monday evening, as rain visited the BV Strong community dinner.

The Buena Vista townsfolk who gathered in the street to share a meal were a picture of resilience, both for yesterday and into the coming year. Until next September, of course, when dinnertime comes again.