Great Crowd Remembers Willow, Celebrates Park Developed in Her Honor



A photo gallery with over 40 images from the dedication is located here. A high-resolution gallery of images is located here on our Facebook page. 


The 30th annual Watson Homecoming was different in many ways from past celebrations. Many events were relocated on the schedule, and some past occurrences were a part of this year's calendar.

The biggest difference, though, was part remembrance and part celebration.  That event was the dedication of Willow Park.


The park, a volunteer effort with help from the Village of Watson, was developed just north of Watson Civic Center in the shadow of the village water tower. The undertaking is an effort to remember Willow Long, the young girl who was the subject of a massive two-day search in September of 2013 before her body was found and her uncle was arrested for her murder.

Some of the same volunteer effort seen in the search for Willow after she went missing has been seen in the effort to develop the park as a remembrance of her all-too-brief life. How appropriate that children were heard shouting and laughing throughout the park area as the dedication ceremony took place.

DeAnna McWilliams, who chairs the Willow Park committee, served as emcee for the ceremony. Our own Greg Sapp spoke about the events surrounding the search for Willow and how our stations covered the story. Greg spoke mostly, though, about the efforts by the Watson community to help in the search for a little girl that many of them never knew.

Greg and his partner in covering the search for Willow, our Wayne Moran, served as parade marshals for the procession that preceded the dedication ceremony.

Plaques were presented to major donors toward the development of the park. Funds are still needed to complete and pay off the cost of the park. An account is open at Fifth Third Bank in Effingham for those who would like to make contributions.

Below is a brief conversation Greg had with DeAnna McWilliams, a member of the Willow Park Committee. (Direct link)

Below is video of the entire Willow Park dedication. (Direct link) A big thank you to Scott Ealy, who shot the video of the dedication for us.