Monday, December 8, 2014

Coming Together As A Community

First, a reminder to take the mural survey at if you haven't done so. I want to publish the results towards the end of this week, so make sure your opinion is heard. And please share the link with your neighbors and friends.

Tree-lighting at Martin's Tavern, PA
Most of you know that I sing with a living history music ensemble. This time of year is usually pretty busy for us--historic sites like Valley Forge, Elfreth's Alley and Pottsgrove all have things like candlelight tours in December. But another type of program we've frequently done is the community tree-lighting or other local holiday celebration.

Friday night we sang at Limerick Township. Every year, Santa shows up by fire truck at their community park.  They set up under a big picnic pavilion, with hot cocoa and cookies and crafts for the kids (this year they decorated luminaria bags). We dress up in Victorian costumes, singing carols and teaching motions to "The 12 Days of Christmas" while Santa does photo ops. There's a big lighted tree outside the pavilion not far away.

The closest house to Limerick's park is at least a half mile away, across dark muddy fields. There's no easy way to walk to the pavilion at night--everyone has to drive. We've gone the last 3 years and it's rained every time. Yet despite the damp and cold, families show up every year for this event. One woman brought her aging mother who was in a wheelchair and not terribly responsive. The woman asked if we could sing "The Little Drummer Boy." When we did, her mother got tears in her eyes. The woman said they never miss coming to the event, rain or not.

I've been to lots of these little community holiday gatherings--in Martin's Tavern on the other side of West Chester, in Ardmore on Lancaster Avenue, right across the river in Bridgeport. We even had one in Norristown last year, at Riverfront Park, where Santa arrived by dragon boat. But the Dragon Boat Club lost most of their equipment in the flood last spring. Donations allowed them to replace some necessities, but outdoor lights for night events at Riverfront have to wait until they get more donations.

At Riverfront Park last year. 
Elmwood Park Zoo had a tree lighting this year, but I think the tree is back near the ice skating rink. You can't see it from the road. I only saw one notice for the lighting, the day before it happened, so I'm not sure how well it was publicized.

What Norristown needs is a community holiday event that's right in the heart of town, in the public square, say, or at Main and Dekalb. A tree, or some other kind of light display would be great--sure, the lighted snowflakes on the streetlamps are helping to brighten up downtown and W. Marshall this year, but we need a central focal point. (That actually, could be said of Norristown in general.)

And while I think lights are important to brighten up the mood of this town, the chance to come together as a community at the end of the year is more important. We've had too much of an "every man for himself" attitude of late. Or maybe it's more like we're all waiting for someone else to take the reins and do something. No one business or non-profit or government agency is going to bring Norristown back by itself. We need a town-wide sense of community. The only time that I feel that comes close to happening is on July 4th (and the parade was cancelled this year).

So let's all mark our calendars to get together at the beginning of the fall next year and figure out the where and how and when of putting together a community event for next December--an event strictly for the enjoyment of Norristown residents, and especially for our children. I guarantee it will help us look into the new year with more optimism than we've felt for a long while. 

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