It was July of 2005, and my husband and I were excited about retiring and moving from the insanity of Metro DC to a small, charming, and slow-paced Alabama town called Pell City. We were looking forward to some lazy days, throwing schedules and deadlines away with the snow shovels.

We were both pleased with Pell City, and who wouldn’t be? It has all the charm of a southern small town: quaint craft stores, equally quaint restaurants, a “Block Party” and a “Catfish Rodeo” for kids. Add in Logan Martin Lake, the artists and an art gallery, two rival college football teams, and a bank manager who knows you well enough to call you by your first name, and we were hooked.

But we didn’t fall in love with Pell City…not at first. Falling desperately, hopelessly and eternally in love with Pell City happened during December of that same year. As we drove through Lakeside Park to see the lights, we were delighted with all the displays. However, it was so much more than the displays. We were overwhelmed by the sense of community. Various businesses, several churches, civic groups and others worked together to make a hometown display different from anything we had ever experienced.

We wanted to be a part of that kind of community, and we finalized our decision to build our retirement home here. We also decided to contribute by starting a writing group called “Writers Anonymous,” which meets monthly. People came, loved it and continued to come. In a little over a year, members of WA brought home close to 150 awards for their writing. We grew both in number and in skill, and in our growth, we were able to begin sponsoring contests in the Pell City schools and helping the Pell City Library with their Summer Reading Program.

We continued to be and still continue to be impressed with all Pell City has to offer and with the community spirit, from the annual Logan Martin Lake cleanup to the “The Heart of Pell City Downtown Revitalization” and everything in between.

Pell City is growing, and we’re watching it grow and are delighted with being a small part of that growth with our Mid-Winter Writers Conference. Exciting things are happening, and we’re glad to see new restaurants, a splash pad, a new theater and bowling alley. All those are good things, and we’re in favor of them.

But the magic of this town isn’t in those things. It’s in the genuine friendships and sense of community we’ve never seen anywhere else. That continues to be, for me, best exhibited by the community Christmas display, “Lights in the Park” at Lakeside Park. If you haven’t been there yet this year, I recommend you go. The park is open every night until 9 p.m. to make it convenient for people to see for themselves what makes Pell City one of the most community-minded towns in Alabama.

We were both right and wrong about Pell City. It is small and charming, and it does have the quaint craft stores and sense of community. But slow paced? Not even close. We’re busier than we have ever been, and we’re doing what we both love: investing in words and the people who write them and being a part of the most amazing little town in the south. Thank you Pell City for the warm welcome we found here. We’re proud to call Pell City, Alabama our adopted home.

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