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COTR faces stiff competition Friday night

For the first time since many Demopolis residents can remember, Christmas on the River has a competitor – the Demopolis High School Tigers will be on the road for an AHSAA playoff game.

“This year is a unique situation,” Olen Kerby, whose son, Clarke, is a member of the football team. “Because of Hurricane Ivan the playoffs were moved back a week. We made it to the semifinals last year, which is the game we’re playing this week, but it was the week before Christmas on the River, and we lost that game.”

Kerby said the same thing happened the year before, meaning the season again was finished before Christmas on the River.

Though COTR is a big event for locals, supporting their team is bigger, and Kerby said for those in his circle of acquaintances the choice of which event to attend is not a difficult one.

“It’s no question,” he said. “My friends aren’t torn, they know where they’re going.”

The game against UMS in Mobile will likely take many residents from the annual kick off to the Alabama State Championship BBQ Cookoff, which will happen Friday evening at the City Landing.

Friday evening’s events will include the various cook off teams setting up and preparing for a night of cooking, as well as the Brother to Brother band and general fellowship and good times.

Jay Shows, Director of the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce, said the playoff game will definitely have an impact on the turnout for the cook off, but said it will still be a good time.

“You have to think, there were probably 1,200 Demopolis people at the game last week in Montgomery,” he said. “I would imagine at least that many will go this week, and probably a third of those people are people who would attend the cook off if they were here.

“That’s an impact of 300 people,” he said. Though the cook off will continue Saturday, Shows said Friday night is typically the more heavily attended night of the two.

“Friday is really when the crowd is there,” he said. “That’s when the cooks are setting up, that’s their playtime because they’ll be cooking all night long. Saturday is more for the judges and competitors.”

For some Demopolis residents who are staying for Christmas on the River, their decision was made for them. The Band Booster Club sponsors the Fair on the Square every year as its main fundraiser. This year, many of those band parents must stay behind to work the square while their children go to Mobile to play.

“We work all year long to prepare for this. We help the vendors unpack and get set up,

and as treasurer I have to handle the money,” Pam McKinley, Band Booster Treasurer, said.

McKinley’s son, Cody Hagler, is a drummer in the Demopolis Tigers Marching Band. She said she will see her son off before turning to her duties as treasurer of the group that supports that very band.

“I’ve already said we have to have a radio up there,” McKinley said of the square. “It wasn’t really a difficult choice, I committed myself to this last year and I knew what I was committing myself to.”

Band Booster President Annette Gwin will be staying behind as well, and she said she too understands the importance of their group’s role in Christmas on the River and in turn to the children in the band.

“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” she said. “We spent $15,000 this year on new equipment and making repairs. We can’t do that without that support.”