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It’s always Christmas at the Chamber

By CANDACE DORRIETY

Dempoolis Area Chamber of Commerce

It’s that time of year again … ah, spring! Don’t you just love it – Demopolis is in full bloom, Easter season is upon us, schools are winding down and preparing for their summer break, and graduation is right around the corner. Here at the Chamber office, spring time means preparing for our busiest season of the year . . .  Christmas on the River! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is right. Busy as bees on freshly bloomed spring flowers, we are collecting our data and planning for another fruitful celebration this December.

Candace Dorriety is the executive director of the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce. She may be reached at candace.dorriety@demopolischamber.com.

“Christmas on the River (COTR) is an annual holiday celebration with several events during four days – main events are always the first weekend in December. We celebrate with a “Special Child” and the announcement of our “St. Nick”. We have a reading of the Christmas Story and lighting of the park with a Santa visit, then on Friday and Saturday we have Christmas in the Canebrake, candlelit tours of historical homes, Canebrake children’s plays, the Alabama State BBQ Cook-Off, Fair in the Square arts and crafts show, a day parade, and a nautical night parade with a fireworks show and semi-formal Gala on the Tombigbee River.”

Though the celebration itself lasts but a few days, the planning process takes many months to cultivate. Each year we have a COTR Committee who works countless hours to ensure the event is a remarkable celebration for both locals and tourists. COTR cannot survive without the volunteer efforts of our community.

Those of you who have been involved over the years understand the intricate details that must be ironed out before achieving success. So many of you have been behind the scenes and witnessed directly the efforts it takes. Truly, one cannot conceive the value of the finished puzzle without having placed some of the pieces together along the way. I can attest to this. I have only experienced two COTR celebrations, having moved to Demopolis in 2015. I was in the crowd with my children, my oldest son was chosen to be an elf our first year here. We enjoyed the festivities each night and day. I thought it was a fabulous display of community involvement and cohesion among the city. I loved it each time, until the grand finale on Saturday evening – the majestic fireworks display over the river. I went home satisfied and looked forward to the next time as perhaps many of us do. As an onlooker or bystander simply there to enjoy the festivities, I took for granted the hard work that others had done to ensure such a wonderful time. Well, my friends, I no longer must wait until December; I am now behind the lines, inside the heart of it all, and I can say with zero hesitation that Demopolis is one of the most amazing communities on the map. Our people are extraordinary – we come together for a common cause, we rise up against challenges, we find a new way when an old one has been lost, we commit to authenticity, we strive for excellence, and we value service and commitment.

I am reaching out to all of you now. If you have never seen Christmas on the River from the inside, I invite you to volunteer on one of our many COTR committees. If you have helped before, I welcome you to join us again this year. You will meet many fascinating personalities who all contribute to this event. As I sat listening during our most recent committee meeting, I was inspired by the thoughts and efforts of each person there. Once you join, you become more than a volunteer; you are part of a huge, diverse family.

Stop by the Chamber office downtown and visit with us. We would love to share with you stories of years gone by. Tell us what your favorite part of COTR is. We have a list of committee assignments ready to be filled. Just think, perhaps this year you, too, can have a direct impact.

— Candace Dorriety is the executive director of the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce. She may be reached by email at  candace.dorriety@demopolischamber.com.