ANDERSON — "When we come out here, we get to put a name to a face."
About 200 people came to Shadyside Park on Saturday. Some came from as far as Georgia. Others came from right down the road. But they all had one thing in common: they grew up in Anderson. And they returned home to get in touch with the community that shaped them.
If You Grew Up in Anderson, a group on Facebook dedicated to preserving the memories of the city's natives, hosted its marquee event for a second consecutive year. The gathering, started by group founder Brenda Von Thomas, attracted food vendors, an Anderson Parks Department tent and Mayor Kevin Smith. It allowed old friends to reconnect and new friends only known through social media to be met.
But more than anything, the planners of the event wanted to put a positive spin on an area that has struggled in recent decades.
"So many people right now are putting Anderson down, so it's important we continue to do positive things like this," said longtime resident Maria Turner. "Something like this allows us to connect with people we've known all our lives and lets us remember the good times. People tend to move away and lose contact, so we have this to bring people back."
Turner is one of four who made up a planning committee for the meet and greet, and the Facebook page itself has more than 6,600 members. Though the vast majority didn't show up for the event, the few that did greatly appreciated the opportunity. Mike Pierce, now a resident of Nashville, Tenn., said some of the people he met from the group have become like his family.
"I've met some really special people on there, and I get to meet them now. We'll share these pictures and memories online," Pierce said.