It was around 10:15 a.m. on a balmy July morning when 6-year-old Hannah Wagar went missing while playing in her family’s front yard. Within 15 minutes, the police department had issued an urgent bulletin asking the community to be on alert. Within an hour, it seemed like just about all 3,846 residents of quiet Upland, Indiana united to search for the little girl, and then forgot what they were doing, and decided to have an amazingly fun sack race instead.
“When something like this happens to one person in our community, it impacts everyone—and that’s why we’re all working together to find Hannah,” said Upland resident Jeffrey Mathers, two hours before he was excitedly hopping down a hill in an oversized potato sack. “We’re determined to do whatever’s necessary to support the Wagar family in their time of need.”
The town’s police and fire departments also joined the search effort, with local news sources confirming that the entire Jefferson Township was flooded with rescue workers, all of whom also very quickly couldn’t remember what they were there to do in the first place and ran home to grab as many pillowcases or empty feed bags as they could find for the big race.
“This is incredible! I’ve never seen a sack race like this before,” said the Wagar family’s neighbor Sarah Padgett, one of the first in the community to organize the search for Hannah. “Maybe this could be a start to people in this community coming together more often.”
Those who didn’t want to race participated in a game of egg toss at the other end of the field, while the old-timers took in all of the spectacle from lawn chairs on the sidelines. Eventually, someone put out a bowl of potato salad, and shortly thereafter someone else started grilling hot dogs. Within no time, the scene had turned into a fantastic town-wide potluck, with more than enough food for everyone to have seconds.
“Folks around here tend to keep to themselves; everyone usually minds their own business,” said Upland sheriff Randall Kuhn. “But every once in a while, something awakens this town’s spirit and brings everyone together. And that’s what made this sack race a ton of fun!”
Hopefully, the town of Upland, Indiana can teach us a few things about what can happen when a whole town comes together.