I wished I'd have brought my camera. I took my children to the Loudon, TN Christmas celebration Friday night, and it was a treat. Small town U.S.A never ceases to amaze me. We found out last year, our first Loudon event, that floats are quite unnecessary in our hometown parade. This year was more of the same. Macy's and the Rose Bowl probably hadn't figured this out, but a meticulously washed and waxed Dooley truck decked out with gold garland and it's driver wearing a Santa hat was plenty Christmas enough without wasting all those beautiful flowers and that expensive and dangerous helium. Decorated horse trailers are welcome too. Of course, Loudon exhibited a few fancy floats hooked to the back of a farm truck on a trailer bed with which one hauls lawn care equipment or hunting ATV's. Inside the trailer bed stood the little Baptist church choir garbed up in it's best bed sheet nativity gear belting out "Oh, Holy Night" on a microphone which was a bit too loud as the P.A. system screeched in protest at intervals, a few flashing colored lights traced the outside to the trailer bed, and a big plastic light up star topped off the vehicle. There were a stunning amount of horses and riders in the procession. "All these syrenes is making Star real nervous like" a cowboy leaned toward a crowd to speak to children on the side of the road watching his wild eyed horse awkwardly jump about, back up, and unpredictably lurch forward. Yes, the Loudon County police had their full force out directing the production and traffic around the parade, and even cars with sirens blasting so loud I covered my children's ears as they passed by. The fire department let the waving Santa ride their sparkle clean truck decked out with wreaths and other twinkling adornments. The outrageous number of ATV riders in the line up who didn't necessarily even bother to decorate their vehicles and wore camouflage instead of traditional red sweaters astounded me for the second time. These boys and men hooted, hollered, and proved their masculine powers in the noisy revving of their engines. All this action was a five year old boys dream. My older boys enjoyed the candy thrown to us. Last year, an unpleasant mother pushed my dear children out of her way to grab candy for her daughter who may have been handicapped. Didn't this grumpy lady know my generous children would have willingly collected more for that little girl than themselves if the mother would have simply asked? We more carefully distanced ourselves from the crowds this year.
After the parade, the town offered a variety of activities. The youngest of my children made foam snowflake ornaments at a craft booth sponsored by a local pediatric group. Sweaty and worn out looking horse drawn carriage toted freezing people around a city block. I warned my children to avoid the manure on the street. My boys toasted, no burned marshmallows over a little stove.
One of two favorites highlights of the evening was a group serving free hot chocolate from a grill. As pastor and city councilman, Charlie Brown, handed out steaming cups of water and powder delight, he invited us to his church, The Solid Rock Cowboy Church of Philadelphia, TN- church with hitching posts so one may ride her horse to service, deer skins, a front porch with rocking chairs, and homecooked potluck each Sunday. Come as the cowboy you are church. He explained his church homecomings each year are held at a local farm with bonfires, hayrides, and the like. My boys instantly begged me to go. I do hope to visit Solid Rock Cowboy Church one fine summer day.
Hot chocolate in hand, our family saw the Grinch at a distance and tried to visit with Frosty. Frosty couldn't see or hear well deep inside his costume, so he was being led around like the blind by an angel. Frosty reached haphazardly out into the cold night air, and the angel would direct a child into his hug.
The Lyric theater hosted handbells,the high school ensemble, and church choirs. My other favorite thing from the evening was stumbling upon the Missionary Baptist Choir at this theater. Unfortunately, I rarely to run into an African American in this predominantly white country town, and apparently I didn't know that the Baptist Missionary Church was a good place to meet fine people of color. Their elegant choir peformed tradtional carols, hymns, along with what I love most, black spirituals. Enhancing the listening experience were the two elderly matriarchs of the church seated next to us responding in song and praise without inhibition to the concert. "Yes, Lawd! You are GOOD to me." Their strength gave Peace, my oldest son, boldness to sing at full spirit of Christmas volume. Nothing tugs at my heart strings more than full on joyful singing from my child.
I truly love a tender Tennessee Christmas.
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