For many, including the author of this piece, the Kersten light display is among favorite Vinton memories.

By Melody Snow, Benton County Historical Society

As part of the Benton County Historical Society, I write a lot about history and the role it’s played in our lives, but the fact is, even as I write this – – it’s history.  After every word, after every letter I type, it’s now behind me – – it’s history. So technically everything we do is now a part of history. What did I just do? What have I done?  What were my actions? What did I value? Like it or not, the trail we leave is our legacy. We’re all in the process of leaving some sort of legacy – – good or bad. Simply said, a legacy is something from us, or our past, that we leave for those who follow.  I’m not talking about anything grand and glorious. And definitely not about anything of monetary value. I’m talking about the little things – – that aren’t so little. The things worth remembering. The way you make people feel. These are the things that really matter.

There are people in this world that have left their mark on me.  Marks that have molded and shaped me. But you know what else? It’s not just individual people.  I have one very big mark on me that’s been left by a community. It’s a big mark from a small community.  A community in Iowa called Vinton. Yes, this tiny town has left its legacy on me.

It’s more than the park benches the community has scattered along the river that graciously bides my time and teaches me the legacy of the importance of peace.  More than the storefronts that band together with displays of encouragement for local teams. Or even a library that encourages young minds to create and dream.

It’s about a town that came together to cheer on a bunch of young girls who dared take on the entire state of Iowa on a basketball court in 1984.  It’s about staying up all night making sure firefighters were fed and encouraged as they battled the devastating fire at Michael & Dowd’s on a freezing cold night in early 2018.  It’s about people going door to door, helping those they’d never met, evacuate in a moment’s notice as the Cedar River threatened their doorsteps in 2008 or after the derecho windstorm of 2011.

But one of the dearest legacies this town has given me is the treasure of family time.  Such as when every generation comes together, as many of us have, for that moment when we all squeeze tightly into one vehicle, and journey out into the cold countryside.  Then from over the crest of a hill a glow begins to radiate across the dark silk sky. Together with loved ones we venture down the slowest, yet busiest, gravel lane in all of Benton county.  And for a moment everyone becomes a child again. The windows roll down despite the frost in the air and every age presses their face out the window, eyes wide in wonderment.

Christmas light upon Christmas light; layer upon layer; from the frozen ground to the tops of the trees; from the fence row, far back into the grove of trees.  Everything is aglow. Then a hush falls over the gregarious passengers and their ears begin to hear the grind and creak of the metal as the antiquated gears come to life.  A grind so sweet when mulled with the wafting Christmas music you could almost swear it’s the tiny hammers of Santa’s elves tapping out the undertones for the carols that fill the night air.

Dalmations are counted.  Santa’s are spied. Memories are told.  Laughter is spilled. Another time is re-lived.  And once again a memory has been made in this moment in time, shared between those we love.  A legacy that touches the heart. A legacy that draws us together. And I am forever grateful for the generosity of Heidi Kersten as she shares her family legacy with all of us.

These are just pieces of our legacy.  All of it, and more, are wrapped up together in our community.  The type of legacy we instill in others is a choice. For me, the legacy left by this community is the essence of who it is.

So thank you Vinton.  Thank you for being apart of my life and for leaving an indelible mark on me.  Legacies are not about what we leave for others, it’s about what we leave in others that matters most.  Take an active part in shaping the future by inspiring the now.  Are you consciously leaving a powerful legacy – – or are you squandering time?

Ask yourself – – “What’s my legacy?”

If you would like more in-depth detail regarding the information in this article or becoming a member of the Benton County Historical Society please email bentoncohistorical@gmail.com or follow us on Facebook.