COTR ’04 set to out-do itself

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 23, 2004

The temperatures are finally starting to drop, summer blooms are disappearing and leaves are starting to fall from the trees. Fall is here and right behind it is the holiday season and Christmas on the River.

The Demopolis City Council Thursday night approved a packet of Christmas on the River requests from the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce, and chamber representative Kelley Smith said this year’s festivities are set to outdo previous years.

“The dates for this year’s Christmas on the River are set for Nov. 28 through Dec. 4, and the week will kick off that Sunday with a play from the CaneBrake Players and the lighting of the love tree at the hospital,” Smith said.

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Monday, Nov. 29, the evening’s festivities will begin at 5:30 p.m. with the traditional crowning of Saint Nicholas, however, Smith said this year will see the revival of another tradition.

“This year we are bringing back the parade of lanterns,” she said. “This year we are encouraging children to make their own lanterns. Then at approximately 6 p.m. (following the crowning) we will have the lantern parade down Washington Street from the Public Square to the Public Library.”

Smith said prizes will be awarded for the best lanterns in several age groups, and all lanterns will be displayed in the Demopolis Public Library window until Christmas.

A new event this year Smith said she hopes will become tradition is the decorating of downtown buildings.

“We are encouraging downtown merchants and building owners to really decorate store and building fronts,” she said. “For any buildings that are vacant we want to encourage any churches, youth groups, civic or social organizations to sponsor a window and decorate it for Christmas.

“We want them to really go all out and decorate these storefronts and windows. It’s kind of like the big city where they have an “unveiling” of windows. They can “unveil” their windows that night during the lantern parade.”

Smith said the chamber is going to partner with the Southside Garden Club to sponsor a commercial decorating contest.

“We’ll have a residential one too,” she said.

Tuesday night the Alabama Symphony Orchestra will put residents in the Christmas spirit with a selection of music beginning at 7 p.m. The location for the concert will be announced later.

The community will truly come together Wednesday night as the Community-wide church service is held at 7 p.m. at the Trinity Episcopal Church, with a live nativity scene welcoming visitors before the service and delighting guests as they leave following the service.

“We encourage everyone from all churches and denominations to attend this service,” Smith said.

As the week nears its end, festivities increase, with Thursday night featuring Christmas in the Canebrake. As in years past Bluff Hall will be open for candlelight tours and will feature period decorations. However, this year, for the first time since its renovations, Lyon Hall will also be open.

“There will be games at the Canebrake and we will have entertainment and refreshments at each of the homes,” Smith said. She said such entertainment will include musicians and historic plays.

Area cooks will be awaiting Friday to kick off the weekend with the Alabama State Championship Barbeque Cookoff, sanctioned this year by the Kansas City Barbeque Society. Smith said despite misgivings by some residents that the change from the Memphis barbeque sanction to the Kansas City society means changes to the cookoff, it is still the same Alabama State Championship Barbeque Cookoff.

Gates will open at 4 p.m. for the barbeque and bands will be playing throughout the cookoff. New this year, however, is a Tasters Choice Award.

“The public will be able to purchase tickets to sample the barbeque and vote for their favorite one,” Smith said.

The weeks events, of course, lead up to the action-packed Saturday finale.

“Saturday will begin with Fair in the Square, the arts and crafts fair, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. We will have a live entertainment stage all through that time with local and regional entertainment,” Smith said.

At 8 a.m., the physically fit – and not so physically fit – can register for the Jingle Bell Run/Walk 5k run and 1 mile fun run, followed by the Children’s Day Parade at 11:30.

“This year we will run the same route, but for the first time we will run it backwards,” Smith said. She said in years past the parade has begun at the old school, traveled down Walnut Street to downtown and ended at the Board of Education.

“This year we will start at the Board of Education, travel down Cedar Street to downtown and end at the old school,” Smith said. “But it’s the same route, just backwards, so people can still get that same spot they always get and they’ll still be able to see everything, it will just be coming from a different direction.”

That afternoon, the Canebrake Players will give a repeat performance of their opening day play, and the day will end with the nautical parade at 6:30 and the Christmas on the River Sponsor Party and Dance.

Smith said those watching the Christmas on the River boat parade this year are in store for a pleasant surprise.

“In the past the fireworks have been sprinkled throughout the parade of boats, but this year we are going to have a grand finale opening of fireworks before the parade and a grand finale after the parade,” Smith said. She said instead of smaller fireworks spread out, there will be two rather impressive displays of fireworks.

“We are going to have a show like we’ve never had in this area,” Smith said. “It’s really going to be fantastic.”