Working through the weekend

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 2, 2005

DEMOPOLIS-For many people, Christmas on the River is a vacation. It is a chance to get away from work or other stressful situations and unwind.

However, for the Demopolis Police Department it is just another day at the office. Between the festival and influx of traffic, many officers with the department rarely get to enjoy the festivities as pedestrians.

For almost 30 years, Marty Hoven has been one of them.

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“I have probably worked every intersection at one time or another,” Hoven said. “I have probably worked every intersection and done everything there is to do associated with Christmas on the River.”

Detective Sgt. Tim Soronen said because of the strain the event puts on the department, the need for officers often keeps them from fully enjoying the yearly event.

“A lot of guys don’t get to see it,” Soronen said. “Unless you are one of the guys out walking the crowd they usually don’t get to see much of it.”

Once Saturday rolls around there is a lot of work for the department to do. Detective Sgt. Tim Soronen said they usually start early and finish late.

“We start off in the morning with guys who patrol Arts in the Park,” Soronen said. “Then we have guys who have to watch the roads and the intersections and move from there to the parade. They get a short break for lunch and finish up with the night parade.”

Hoven, who has worked the festival since 1978, said working the festival is no cakewalk. He said there are always people who don’t follow the rules, which makes for a long day.

“One of the things we have to do is check behind people at the barricades,” Hoven said. “Sometimes at Christmas on the River a barricade to some people is just another obstacle to go around. People think they have to go through them. Sometimes they see people go through them and think they can go through them too.”

However, the news isn’t completely bad. Hoven said during the day parade policeman often have the best seat in the house.

“I fairness, we get to see most of the day parade,” Hoven said. “We actually get a better view of it than most people because we are in the intersection. Once we get all of our traffic cleared we’re there.”

Most years, Hoven said, his family normally comes to his post and they enjoy the parade together.

“There have been years where my family would come down,” Hoven said. “I would let them know where my intersection was and when the traffic cleared out I could watch it with my family.”

Many times, Christmas parades in Thomasville and Meridian increase traffic through Demopolis tremendously. Many times people will leave these Christmas celebrations and head to Demopolis.

Sgt. Tommy Johnson, who has worked the festival for the last 17 years, said when traffic becomes congested, tempers run hot.

“So many times people want to go right and have to go left,” Johnson said. “It can lead to people getting impatient.”

Sgt. Tim Williams, who has worked Christmas on the River since 1986, said with common sense and cooperation, the festival can be fun for everyone.

“We just ask people to follow the simple rules of the road,” Williams said. “If there is a barricade there, don’t go around it. It’s there for a reason.”