40th COTR will showcase many familar things

Published 10:33 am Wednesday, November 30, 2011

This year’s Christmas on the River has a little extra significance.

When the City of Demopolis celebrates hosting its annual COTR festivities, COTR itself will celebrate its 40th birthday.

An event with so much history often finds the best way to reinvent itself is to thumb through its archives and not reinvent itself at all.

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Chamber director Jenn Tate said this year’s event will have many looks from years past as event organizers look to tap some of the magic and interest that followed the early years.

“One of the things I’m most excited about is the elf is back on the water tower,” she said of one of the largest additions. “It’s up as of (Tuesday).”

Paper mache heads, long familiar with the day parade, will also make their return this year.

Two of the men who played a key role in the inaugural event 40 years ago, Mem Webb and Barry Collins, will serve as are honorary Grand Marshals.

Theo Ratliff, former Demopolis basketball star and current NBA player, will serve as the official Grand Marshal.

“We’ve been trying to get Theo for years,” Tate said of asking one of the most well-known Marengo County sons, “but he’s always been busy with basketball.”

This year’s NBA work stoppage unlocked some of Ratliff’s schedule and Tate and the Chamber Board pounced.

“I’m just thrilled that it finally worked out, and to bring him here on the 40th (COTR) is special,” she said.

Ratliff will hold a meet and greet at Demopolis City Hall following the parade and will sign autographs.

The day parade currently has more than 60 floats and many of both the day and nautical parade floats have been refurbished to give even the holdover parts from parades past new look and feel.

“Each year you try to do things a little better than the year before,” Tate said.

Still not lost on Tate and the Chamber is some of the nostalgia that comes along with Demopolis’ largest annual tourism event.

“I’m excited about the fact that this is the one tourist attraction that brings in the most people possible to show off the town, the river, historical homes, the park and all the talented people that this town has,” Tate said. “It’s amazing how it all comes together.”

Tate said she expected upwards of 20,000 people to attend this year’s event.