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Christmas on the River to see changes this year

Christmas on the River will take on a new look this year, with the festival shortening to four days instead of an entire week.

This year’s Christmas on the River festival will run from Thursday, Dec. 2, through Sunday, Dec. 5. In years past, COTR has run an entire week, from Sunday through Saturday, during the week that included the first Saturday in December.

“One of the main reasons for the change is that, for people who come to town for the festival, they won’t be as stretched out for lodging and gas,” said 2010 COTR chair Joe Parr. “It will be better to have it be Thursday through Sunday, rather than start the Sunday after Thanksgiving and going all week.”

“The town has been craving some changes as we grow in our quest for tourism,” said Jennifer Tate, the executive director of the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce. “We are open to any suggestions, especially from our Chamber members as well as from citizens. We hope that the changes that we’re putting in place are going to make it more successful. We have gotten a lot of feedback already, which is why we are making the changes.”

The parades will also be a little different. New floats will be created for the children’s parade, and local people will be able to enter their own boats in the nautical nighttime parade, as long as they follow set guidelines.

“We wanted to see people get back into it by making their own nighttime floats and having a contest and make it be fun,” Tate said. “We really want to include our townspeople more, which will, hopefully, get us more visitors. We would also like to make the barbecue cookoff a little more accessible and more welcoming to others, possibly with more entertainment and more tasting of food items.”

Parr said that shortening the festival to four days will make it more meaningful and more enjoyable for visitors.

“We’re trying to be more to the point about what Christmas on the River is all about,” Parr said. “We want to make it more of an energized event for people to come see in Demopolis. I think they will get more out of it and remember it more.”

As the COTR chair, having a lot of changes to make to the 38-year-old festival and an integral part of the Demopolis tradition is a little daunting, or at least challenging.

“I’m looking forward to being the chairman of Christmas on the River. I want to make Christmas on the River more successful than it’s ever been. A lot of people know Demopolis because of Christmas on the River.

“I’m looking forward to working with Jennifer Tate, the new executive director for the Chamber of Commerce, and Pat Brady. Jennifer Roemen, last year’s chair, laid the groundwork for me. She did an excellent job last year and has made it a lot easier for me to step in. We’ve got a long way to go this year, but we’re going to get there and we’re going to get there soon. It’s a challenge, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”