Waldron, Indiana is a quiet little town. Actually, you can’t even call it a town because it’s unincorporated.
No one really knows how many people actually live in Waldron.
“I will tell you this, we have one flashing red light in town, if that tells you anything,” said Gary Brown, principal of the Waldron Junior/Senior High School.
“It’s a Class A high school, so we’re just a country town,” said resident Corey Barton.
Which makes what happened there on Thursday night all the more impressive.
“I just had a couple parents here a minute ago who said this was the most exciting thing to happen to Waldron since we won the (boy’s basketball) state title back in 2004,” Brown said.
It was the last day of school. But after the bell rang, instead of going home, the students, their parents, and the rest of the town gathered behind the elementary school. There was a concert by Jambox, a football bounce house and inflatables, a Play 60 zone, the Colts in Motion traveling museum, food trucks, and more.
The Colts Cheerleaders were there.
And so was the mascot, Blue.
Around 4:45, a helicopter landed in the middle of the school track. Colts players T.Y. Hilton and Erik Walden emerged to a warm, Indiana welcome on a warm summerlike night.
It was the first fan fest of the year for the Colts, and they held it in Waldron, Indiana.
Why? Because the fans in Waldron wanted the Colts to come to their town. The Colts held a contest, “Bring the Colts to Your Town.” And the residents of Waldron rallied together.
“We were the underdog too,” said Barton, who nominated Waldron for the contest. “We’re not even close to the population of Peru and Scottsburg. So, we were able to overcome the odds.”
The odds say bigger communities have a better chance of getting more votes. But that’s where Waldron’s size actually worked in its favor.
“We are so small, but just between everybody sharing it. I mean, everybody is friends, we made it happen,” said Barton’s wife, Carrie.
It was a community coming together in a grassroots effort.
“We have a community that just loves to wrap their arms around the school and just anything that will bring excitement to this small, little town. They went wild on social media. We had our kids from the elementary and the high school get involved. We had a social media site known as Waldron Will that got the word out,” said Brown.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And Waldron proved that it’s not the size of your town, it’s the size of the heart of your town that matters.
“I can relate, being from a small town, you learn to appreciate things like this. Any time we can take time, give back, reunite with the fans, see people’s smiles, see the kids, it’s always a good thing,” said linebacker Erik Walden.
“You don’t forget about the people that are in this area, especially in Indiana. Just to come here and see all the support that we have, it means a lot to us,” said wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who spent the evening signing everything from jerseys to babies.
Waldron Junior/Senior High Athletic Director Mark Shadiow said it’s a memory these kids will have for life.
“I remember the first time I met Peyton Manning. I was a young kid and it just stuck with me. I’ll never forget it.”
When it was over, the players headed back to the helicopter with cupcakes and custom made cakes.
— Carrie's Cakes (@c2barton) May 27, 2016
The townspeople gathered around to savor the memory and bid them farewell.
They won’t soon forget the day the Colts came to Waldron.
And the Colts won’t soon forget them.