A knock came on my front door last Friday evening about 5:15pm. It was my neighbor and she said, “Let’s go! The whole block is walking down to Main Street for the Christmas Tree lighting.” In less than 2 minutes, I was out my front door and into another neighbor’s house filling my insulated mug with coffee and Kahlua. Three moms, five children, Mrs. Miller, the couple from the stone house and myself all walked the 6+ blocks to Main. The kids were excited, the moms focused on talking with each other while keeping an eye on the rambunctious young ones. I walked with Mrs. Miller for several blocks and learned more about her 60+ years living in the same house across the street then I had the three previous years. Why does it take us so long to find time for important things like this?
When the group arrived at Main, we waited a few minutes kitty-corner to the Post Office where the town Christmas Tree stood tall in darkness. Why were we stopped at this spot? Santa Claus was supposed to arrive in a parade.
The Montana Chorus started to sing carols, prompting us to make our way across the street. They warm up their vocal chords and the gathering crowd with traditional Christmas classics. Someone shouted that Santa & Mrs. Clause had arrived. They both sat tall in the back of a pickup truck. Apparently the parade was only one vehicle.
By now, there were a few hundred people gathered. The perennial emcee for events like this in Hamilton is Steve, the local radio news man. More caroling. He commenced a crowd countdown from five-four-three-two-one ? the tree burst into lights right on cue. And more caroling.
Steve gave a plug for the Main Street merchants who were staying open late — not only that night, but for the rest of the Christmas season. The candy store was packed. The toy store attracted the children along with their coerced parents. Santa took up a throne on the sidewalk to the delight of children reciting their wish lists and parent’s cameras.
I love living in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley, I love living in small town Hamilton, Montana. I love the people of this area who are an eclectic mix of multiple generation farmers/ranchers and transplants like myself from other states. Us transplants came looking for a small town to live. A town where people say hello on the street, wave to neighbors from the car and generally still care about the other human beings who are all neighbors. This small-town tree lighting exemplified what is still great about America.
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Next Blog Date: Monday, December 7, 2010