Hughson impervious to rain on small town's centennial parade

HUGHSON -- Everyone knows every- one in Hughson. That's the way it's been for 100 years and the way it will be for a hundred more, said centenarian Blanche Sheridan, the grand marshal in the town's Centennial Celebration parade Saturday.

Sheridan, who recently turned 100, made her way to Hughson from Nebraska 60 years ago to join family who had settled in the rural town with a deeply rooted agricultural heritage.

Folks celebrated the town's heritage, founders and families Saturday with music, the largest parade in Hughson history (100 entries), food and the unveiling of a bronze statue by Betty Saletta that depicts a 1930s peach picker.

After a dreary, wet start to the festivities, the sun came out just as a row of police on horseback began parading through downtown along Hughson Avenue.

Over the course of the day, a majority of the town and a bunch of folks with familial connections to it turned out to celebrate the "small community with a big heart," said Jean Hatfield, president of the historical society.

Organizers cooked up 3,000 servings of beans for the free bean feed.

"I hope it's enough," Hatfield said as the crowd in four blocks of downtown Hughson continued to grow.

As some families planned reunions and barbecues around the city's 100th birthday, some former Hughson residents flew in and drove from other states to see family and friends.

Those who grow up in Hughson and move away don't stay far for long, said Mary LaRosa, 35, third-generation Hughsonite.

"No other place feels like home," she said. "It's the people here that make it home."

LaRosa, who was born a Spear, returned after moving to Turlock.

"I know it's just down the street, but that was too far. My family is here," LaRosa added. "Hughson is a huge family, and we protect each other."

The LaRosas are among those who contributed to the effort to commemorate the centennial with a bronze statue called "The Harvest."

"I want our boys to come back and say, 'This is who we are,' " the mother of three said.

Since it began with a population of about 500 in 1907, the town has grown to an estimated 6,127, according to city data. Its recent population spike from 3,980 in 2000 hasn't changed its character, Hughson Community Alliance President Bob Newman said.

"I don't think Hughson will ever get that big. Everyone will always know everyone," he added.

Bee staff writer Eve Hightower can be reached at ehightower@modbee.com or 578-2382.