“Starting a tradition … Christmas in the Park” was the theme for the first McMinnville Junior Auxiliary-sponsored Christmas light ceremony and holiday program in 1986. Organization members will continue the tradition Dec. 1 from 6 to 8 p.m.
In a Nov. 28, 1986 edition of the Southern Standard, the new event was announced for Monday, Dec. 1 at 6:30 p.m. in the “newly renovated downtown park.” The article featured a picture of Junior Auxiliary president Brenda Locke and members Lisa Guthrie, Debi Martin, Cil Porter and Kathy Collier decorating the downtown Christmas tree in the park with holiday bows in preparation for the event.
Porter was chair of the committee and Rhonda Martin, her co-chair, stated in the article, “This community-wide activity is sponsored by our auxiliary but we hope the people of Warren County realize this is more than lighting a tree. We are starting an annual tradition.”
Coverage of the event went into the Wednesday, Dec. 3 edition of the Standard with the headline, “Junior Auxiliary-sponsored Christmas In The Park Begins Holiday Tradition.”
Among the activities:
• First Methodist Church offered a live nativity scene. Mary, depicted by Barbara Noblin, and Joseph, portrayed by Shane Davis, were seated at the manger while live animals were lead around the area by Marie Brewer, Ben Newman and Melissa Campbell.
• Opening prayer was given by Rev. Blake Hawthorne, minister of First Presbyterian Church. The church’s Handbell Choir performed “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “Away in a Manger,” and “Jingle Bells.”
• First Baptist Church Choir offered “Joy to the World.” Mark Karki was the featured soloist. He presented “O Holy Night” and led the group caroling.
• Paul Roberts, minister of Westwood Church of Christ, selected “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Man” as the topic for his Christmas story.
• Local Brownie troops sang “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
• Local Cub Scout troops sang “Jingle Bells” and “Here Comes Santa Claus.”
Brenda Locke, president of Junior Auxiliary at that time, led the countdown as the large audience awaited the lighting of the tree at exactly 7 p.m. by Mayor Royce Davenport and County Executive Ray Moore.
Throughout the evening, those enjoying the festivities were treated to hot apple cider courtesy of McMinnville Junior Auxiliary at the gazebo.
Three decades later, the event is still going strong. Join Junior Auxiliary on Dec. 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Court Square in downtown McMinnville for the 2015 Christmas in the Park.