In case you haven't noticed, Pea Ridge has grown, changed.
The population of the city, the school and the surrounding area has grown with thousands more people here than there were just a couple of decades ago.
The population explosion isn't due to a birth rate increase, but from people moving here, wanting to make Pea Ridge their homes, to raise their children here, to be a part of the community and the schools.
The high school graduation ceremony was held in the new arena at the high school and the building was filled to capacity. The parking lots were full and there were vehicles parked on the grass.
There were 198 graduates! That's a phenomenal increase from the decades before.
In 2009, there were 101 graduates, then, not until 2013 (just 10 years ago) were there 100 or more graduates.
For many years, graduation was held in the gym in town, then, in 20001, a new high school (now the junior high school building) was built. By 2004, there were 76 graduates and graduation was held in the Rogers Expo Center. It was held there again in 2005. In the fall of 2005, the School Board voted to hold graduation in Barnhill Arena and it was held there until 2015, when it was moved back to town.
From 1966 to 1979, there were less than 50 graduating seniors. In 1980, there were 51, then, there were less than 50 until 1984 when there were 52. The numbers stayed at less than 50 until 2001 except in 1987, 1989 and 1998.
In 2017 and 2019, there were 160 graduating seniors and the numbers have continued to increase.
This year, one of the graduating seniors, the senior class vice president, said : "We come from the small town of Pea Ridge which, in my book, makes us family."
What's the point?
Regardless whether you were born here or moved here recently, we're all neighbors and have something in common -- we call Pea Ridge home. We each bring a different perspective, different skill sets and can use those attributes to work together to fashion our city into the community we want.
Again and again, the residents of Pea Ridge still help one another and work together, whether in a crisis (as in when a police officer was killed) or in a blessing or event. Banners with photographs of graduating seniors are hung on the street light poles along the main north-south thoroughfare.
People gather to shop, visit and listen to music for Second Saturdays.
People post on social media when they find a wandering dog that is appears to be lost to try to help the owner find their pet.
Most people smile and wave when passing on the street or waiting their turn at one of the four-way stop-sign intersections.
Pea Ridge is a kind and caring community and it's a good place to call home.
The growth explosion has not, so far, destroyed the small, home-town feel.
Let's each work to keep it that way.
Editor's note: Annette Beard is the managing editor of The Times of Northeast Benton County, chosen the best small weekly newspaper in Arkansas for five years. A native of Louisiana, she moved to northwest Arkansas in 1980 to work for the Benton County Daily Record. She has nine children, six sons-in-law, a daughter-in-law, nine grandsons and six granddaughters. The opinions expressed are those of the author. She can be reached at [email protected]