GREENCASTLE -- As Almost Home owner Gail Smith describes her restaurant's upcoming 20th anniversary celebration, she could also be describing her business after 20 years.
"It's pretty much exploded into something bigger than expected," Smith said.
Smith herself expresses a certain level of surprise that her restaurant has been right there on the square at 17 West Franklin Street for two decades. She said people tell her they cannot believe it's been 20 years.
But the business has grown and thrived in that time, expanding over the years and even including the Swizzle Stick bar next door. Smith said she wanted to throw the celebration to remember the good times she's had and people she's met through the business.
"It's not about the money," she said. "It's about the wonderful people you meet and care about. I feel blessed."
To remember the good times and show the people a good time, the restaurant is hosting a "Music Fest Grand Slam Event" from 3 to 11 p.m. Sept. 11. It will be a street festival on the north side of the square featuring three live bands, a beer garden, food, a corn hole tournament and a ping pong tournament.
The big draw of the day, though, will be an appearance from former Major League Baseball player Lee Smith. Lee will speak as well as sign autographs and meet and greet the patrons.
Gail met Lee through her enduring love of the Chicago Cubs. Lee, who is third on the MLB all-time saves list with 478, pitched for the club from 1980 through 1987, collecting 180 of his saves for the Cubs.
When Gail attended the Cubs Convention last winter, she just happened to meet the right people, who eventually introduced her to the pitcher. She said that Lee, and pretty much every other Cub player she met, treated here wonderfully.
"Lee Smith was so nice to me," she said. "They're just normal people too."
After meeting Lee again during spring training, she asked him to attend her celebration. He didn't hesitate to say yes.
"I fell out of my chair," Gail said.
Lee won't be the only MLB connection for the day. The cornhole tournament will be Cubs vs. Cardinals. The ping pong will be Cubs vs. Red Sox. There will also be an MLB jersey raffle as well as silent auction items, many of which will be baseball related.
In terms of entertainment, the other major attraction will be the bands, with performances from Blues Side Up, The Chiggers and Ellusion. Once 11 p.m. comes, the outdoor portion of the event will pack up and move indoors for more music.
Many of the Almost Home's specialties will be available for sale at the event, as well as complimentary strawberry pizza while it lasts. Gail has also put together a commemorative 20th anniversary recipe calendar, which will be for sale.
"I just want to throw a celebration thanking everyone for supporting me," she said. "It's a good way to come together and enjoy the end of summer."
Although the event is in celebration of the milestone, Smith said she hopes to make it an annual end-of-summer event.
"When people leave, I want them to say, 'Wow, this was great.' It's about who they got to talk to and the good food they got to enjoy," she said.
For more information on the event, call the restaurant at 653-5788 or go to www.almosthomerestaurant.com