Over 50 volunteers showed up to clean up the city during the Preston Pride event on Saturday, April 26. BRETTA GRABAU/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
Over 50 volunteers showed up to clean up the city during the Preston Pride event on Saturday, April 26. BRETTA GRABAU/REPUBLICAN-LEADER

In between the dark, rainy days of the past week, Saturday dawned sunny, breezy and brisk for the day devoted to the Preston Pride Clean Up, sponsored by the Preston Area Chamber of Commerce. The dew was still wet on the ground as more than 50 volunteers gathered to participate in beautifying the public and tourist areas throughout Preston.

For the past few weeks, signs have been seen across town advertising the event. Many people signed up to participate in the cleaning, but on the day of the event, many others appeared who had not signed up. Still others brought extra gloves and bags for the trash and volunteered to pick up the bags to take to the area Dumpster.

Sarah Wangen, president of the Preston Area Chamber of Commerce, expressed great pleasure in seeing the amount of people volunteering. "I am really excited about having such a great turnout for this event."

Others who are part of the chamber also shared similar opinions of excitement for the tremendous turnout.

Six main areas were identified as places to clean in preparation for people traveling through Preston during the tourism season to have a good impression of the city. The first section and the place where the volunteers gathered at the beginning and end of the day was the Preston Trailhead. Other sections included the school, the trail in town, the courthouse square, the ball fields and the swimming pool area. In addition, the Preston Lions cleaned areas along Highway 52 through town.

The volunteers split into groups and determined which areas they would clean and if any group finished with their areas before 12:30, they moved on to extra areas needing cleaning.

Of course cleaning the particular areas around town included picking up random trash wherever it was found in the grassy areas. However, sweeping the sidewalks around the businesses in the square and picking up the leaves and cigarette butts fell under the category of deep cleaning. In the sidewalks, if there happened to be any grass or weeds sticking up through the concrete, volunteers pulled it out.

Meanwhile, down by the river, volunteers worked to clean the riverbank of leftover glass and metal from a car. Another worked to clean out the storm sewer of trash and mud that may have impeded proper drainage.

Still, the main areas to be on the lookout for trash were green areas and playgrounds. Not all the volunteers were adults. Many children turned out to help police the area. They had fun hunting for trash to pick up, squeezing into tighter areas to pick up the trash and kept an eye out for any really weird item found. At the end of the day, a prize was awarded to the person who found the craziest item while cleaning up. This motivated many to keep their eyes open.

Not only did the volunteers clean, but one also took the time to plant a crab apple tree to brighten up the area with more color near the picnic tables at the trailhead. This tree was donated by the city of Preston as a part of the clean-up day.

At the end of the allotted time of cleaning, a lunch was provided for the volunteers in appreciations for participating.

Several local businesses sponsored the event and donated either money or food for the lunch. Preston Foods, F & M Community Bank and Preston Apple and Berry Farm were a few of the businesses willing to participate.

A few of the volunteers actually do not live in Preston at all. Sarah Chounard came from Ostrander to help with Preston Pride.

"My son is in Troop 67 and this type of activity is required for the Boy Scouts. I read about Preston Pride and thought it would make a good family event," she stated.

But no matter where each volunteer lives, working together is always beneficial.

"Cleaning up the city is a good way to represent the city. When visitors come, the presentation of a nice, beautiful city is important to them," commented Kathy Dahl, who is in charge of Preston Tourism. "It is also a good way to get together with other people from the community. It is important for community pride."

Preston Pride presented a great opportunity for many in the community to work outside in the sunshine and give back to the community. It was good timing as the town's celebration, Trout Days, is coming up in May and the beginning of the tourism season is just around the corner.

Thankfully, the day for clean-up was blessed with good weather. Otherwise the rain or snow date would have been June 1, possibly resulting in a loss of motivation to clean and definitely not being completed before Trout Days.

This year was the first year doing an activity such as this. With its success, the chamber hopes to plan for a clean-up day again next year.