Standing on the edge of the stage, I pointed my little digital camera to the left and clicked. I moved right to catch the edge of the image and clicked again, and again, until Id made a panoramic shot of the crowd at Christmas in America, Columbia Countys Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
I repeated this exercise three times Saturday, and each time the crowd grew bigger and bigger until each frame filled with people - even though I had to stop when it got too dark for the camera to pick up the image.
As the people continued to arrive and the music began, I thought of words from Ann Blalock. Shes the chairman of Harlems Historic Preservation Com-mission, and in a story the other day talked about how she and her husband, City Council member Tom Blalock, found such a welcoming city when they moved to Harlem.
You could never get a sense of community in Martinez or Evans, she said. Its just one big mass of people.
Shes right - and thats exactly the point of events like Saturdays tree-lighting, or of Octobers Its Spooky to be Hungry food drive, or Mays Memorial Day celebration. All of them started in Evans, and came from big ideas and regular people.
Saturdays panoramic scene is more than just a mass of people recorded on a strip of digital film; its a visible image of whats right with the world, of whats great about our community. And it all happened just because a few people had a good idea, and wanted to use it to make things better.
Thanking everyone involved in events such as this could be as time-consuming as the Academy Award thank-you speech from the director of the Best Foreign Short Film. But to single out a few folks: Charlie Beale, Beth Roberson, Steve Jones and the crew from the Recreation Department; Pam Tucker from Emergency Services, and Barry Smith and Rebecca Hicks from Community Services; Tony Temple and his crew from Construction and Mainten-ance; Columbia County Arts, the Sheriffs Office, Martinez Fire Department, Gold Cross; music teachers Margaret Wiggins and Niki Morse, all the singing elementary kids, the Lakeside Middle Ladies Ensemble and the Evans High JROTC, and the Columbia County Choral Society.
What kind of community are we building? After the program, while we were picking up some trash that had fallen under the temporary bleachers, a little girl who had been handing out hot chocolate from the Vineyard Church walked across the parking lot and started helping.
In a panoramic view, sometimes there is just one person who stands out. This girl did, a quiet ambassador from a group that deserves special thanks for their musical and spiritual contributions to the community and to Christmas in America.
If you missed it, dont worry; well be back next year, the Saturday before the first Sunday in December. Theres always room for one more in the panorama.
My family sold our house (were not going far), and moving has been a madhouse. Weve had to skip a few Christmas social-dates this year as a result.
Among those was the open house at the Grovetown Museum Sunday. I hated to miss it; the museum is a delightful place, and a great vision from Rosa Lee Owens, Charles Lord and others in our biggest city.
This facility is one of those that Augusta Museum Director Scott Loehr was talking about when he told County Commissioners last week about the assistance the regional facility offers to smaller groups in the area.
Columbia County has a lot of history, even if most of its viewers just got here. The best hope for preserving that history is through people like those who run Grovetowns Museum, and through the countys partnership with the Augusta Museum.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to bpaschal at newstimesonline.com.)
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