Feasting, parades and pictures


Randy Riley - Contributing Columnist



Tis’ the season. Yes, friends, the holiday season is now officially here.

I will forget about the frustration of seeing Christmas displays up before Halloween. I will forgive the shopping malls for blaring out Christmas carols weeks before all the fixings for Thanksgiving dinner were in the fridge. With this weekend behind us, the holidays are now here. Let’s celebrate.

Hopefully, each of you enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Families and friends gather. Food is prepared and shared. Traditionally, a prayer of thanks is given for the food, family and friends. Being with loved ones, laughing and being thankful is a great way to start the holidays.

Besides the joy of eating a hearty Thanksgiving meal, there is the greater joy of sharing a traditional Thanksgiving meal with others. Dozens of our friends did just that this past Thursday morning. They gathered at Wendy’s and, with the support of several members of the community, we shared a Thanksgiving feast with 2,060 friends who needed a meal. God bless them all.

Saturday was a classic, brisk fall evening. Within an hour, I could still feel my feet, but my toes were so cold they had lost all feeling and were just taking up space in the end of my shoes. Despite the chill, several thousand people gathered along Main Street to enjoy the 10th anniversary of the Hometown HoliDazzle Lighted Parade.

Over 50 floats brought cheers, applause and laughter from the street-side crowd. I have had the honor of announcing the parade every year since it started. Ten years ago, Rob Jaehnig asked me to be the announcer. I had no idea that it would become a 10-year run. What a joy it has been.

Every year I seem to do something or say something that should be embarrassing, but we’re all having so much fun that no one seems to care. This year, during a gap in the parade, Tom played the old song, “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas.” I tried to lead the crowd in singing that silly song and quickly realized that I didn’t know the words, but that didn’t slow me down in the slightest.

Once more, I looked like a goofball, but you have got to love a community where the former mayor can publicly be goofy, and we can all laugh about it.

Thanksgiving, immediately followed by the our great all-day HoliDazzle Saturday, is the perfect way to start the Christmas season – shopping in downtown Wilmington, the Clinton County Community Band and Merry TubaChristmas at the Murphy Theatre, vocal music echoing throughout the Clinton County Courthouse, hot chocolate and tasty treats for sale along Main Street and South Street makes for an exciting, if not chilly, way to start celebrating Christmas.

At this time each year, most people start reflecting about how their families celebrate the holidays. Over the years, most of our family traditions tend to change. We no longer drive to Grandma’s house. The family members who are gathered around the table change. Grandpa or Grandma are no longer with us. Siblings start celebrating at their own homes – starting new family traditions. It’s only natural.

Last week, I was going through a box of old family photographs. That led me to reviewing files in the computer that were filled with pictures that I had downloaded and promptly forgotten.

Debbie and I had only a few photos framed and hanging on the living room wall. We decided to change that by printing and framing enough family pictures to nearly cover the walls. That has been a joy. Now, the living room is a tribute to our long-lost ancestors, our life together, our children and grandchildren.

Seeing the walls covered with the smiling faces and goofy antics of our grandchildren, gives me hope for the future. Photos of great-great-grandparents are hanging beside pictures of grandchildren who are sliding head-first down a playground slide. I love the contrast of the old sepia-toned pictures of the late 1800s with the bright colors of the digital pictures of children playing.

Remembering and celebrating our past provides us with hope and dreams for tomorrow.

Now, ‘tis the season of holiday joy. As we enter 2017, we need to set aside that which divided us as Americans. Whether someone wishes you a simple “Happy Holidays,” or a heartfelt “Happy Kwanzaa,” “Happy Hanukah” or “Merry Christmas,” smile and return the greeting.

Let’s resolve to be better neighbors, friends and family members. Personally, I’m going to resolve to learn the words to the song, “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas.”

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.

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Randy Riley

Contributing Columnist

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