Mackey continues family COTR legacy

Sally Mackey displays a newspaper article with a photo of her aunt, Lynda Stapp, who was the first Miss Christmas on the River.

This year’s Miss Christmas on the River, Sally Mackey, has a voice and is delighted to share with everyone the excitement of Christmas on the River. She has been featured on various news stations to promote Christmas on the River 2017 and recently shared with the public her royal lineage.

Sally’s aunt, Lynda Stapp, was the very first Miss Christmas on the River crowned. “That was something Lynda was quick to remind us of,” Mackey said. She was very proud to be part of something so important to the city of Demopolis. Lynda was even in the COTR Day Parade last year.

Unfortunately, Lynda passed away last spring and left her family and friends way too soon. However, as her daughter, Annie Stapp Wells, recently reminded Sally and her mother, it is comforting knowing that her last act was one of giving and selflessness. Her organs extended the lives of two individuals in Tennessee. Last Friday, there was a fundraiser held in Lynda’s name, “Cheers to Lynda”.

Sally loved her aunt very much and wants to honor her name by spreading the word to be an organ donor. She is challenging everyone to become one. It doesn’t take much to make the choice, but it’s a choice that can do so much.

It seems this year’s Miss COTR not only has beauty and brains, but she also has a special heart.

Clarke named 2017 COTR Special Child

11-29-2017 — Demopolis, Ala. — Christmas on the River 2017 Special Child Ronnie (R.C.) Clarke, Jr. pulls the handle to light the Love Lights Tree atop Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital. The lighting of the Love Lights Tree kicks off COTR festivities each year in Demopolis.

Nominations sought for COTR St. Nicholas

He could be your next-door neighbor or your baseball coach. She could be your Sunday School teacher or your Girl Scout Leader. Who are we talking about? The 2017 St. Nicholas is a Demopolis resident who best portrays the spirit of Christamas all year long by being involved in the development of the lives of children in our community. This person is someone who has made a positive impact on your life or the lives of your children. He or she is someone who brightens your day when you see them or goes the extra mile when you need a little boost. This person is drawn to children and children are drawn to them. He or she seeks ways to help, teach, guide or lead children to become the best version of themselves. Who comes to mind when you think of the next St. Nicholas?

The Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce and the Christmas on the River Committee are seeking nominations for this year’s 2017 St. Nicholas. There is no greater compliment than for someone to sit down and write a letter of recommendation on your behalf. All of us know someone who has made a difference in our community and the lives of the children in our area. Take a few minutes and write a letter of recommendation of behalf of someone who has made a lasting impression on you.

Nominations must be submitted in written form and received by the Chamber of Commerce no later than November 17, 2017. Remember to sign your letter. Without a signature we cannot accept your nomination. You may send your letter to PO Box 667, Demopolis, AL 36732; drop off at the Chamber at 102 E. Washington St; or email your nomination to director@demopolischamber.com.

The crowning of St. Nicholas even will be held on Thursday November 30th in the Public Square, Downtown Demopolis at 6:00pm.

For more information, contact the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce at 334-289-0270.

Hasty crowned Little Miss COTR 2017 (with gallery)

10-11-17 — Demopolis, Ala. — Claire Elisabeth Hasty is crowned Little Miss Christmas on the River 2017 by Camdyn Grace Morgan, Little Miss COTR 2016, at the Demopolis Civic Center.

In the largest Christmas on the River Pageant, Little Miss COTR had 46 little angels competing for the title. They walked, skipped and even bounced their way into the judges hearts to stand out among so many contestants. The judges divide the number of girls to 26 in order to select a top 11. Those making the top 11 list were Katherine Hewitt, Khloe Wolf, Kendall Gandy, Makyla Rembert, Violet Smelley, Emily Parten, Naudia Reed, Carly Teel, Claire Hasty, Ansley Basinger and Emma Dahl.

The judges debated and chose a top 5 to answer the question, “What is your favorite thing to do at Christmas?”. After each little sweet voice answered, the esteemed judges had their decisions for the 2017 Little Miss Christmas on the River and her Royal Court.

Placing in the fourth alternate position was Kendall Marie Gandy in an ivory tulle gown. In a very sweet baby pink tulle gown was third alternate, Ansley Brooke Basinger. Naudia Naomi Reed earned second alternate wearing a beautiful white ball gown with rhinestone detailing. Awarded first alternate was Emma Rae Dahl who wore a gorgeous pink ruffled gown embellished with crystals.

Crowned Little Miss Christmas on the River was Claire Elisabeth Hasty in an elegant off-the-shoulder white gown with rhinestones and silver bead work. Claire is the seven year old daughter of Jared and Rebecca Hasty. She is a second grader at Westside Elementary School. She was so happy when they called her name out that she just couldn’t stop shaking with excitement. Claire is most excited about crowning a new queen next year and hopes a lot of girls will dress up next year and have as much fun as she did. She says to just believe in yourself and go into the competition to have fun and be with your friends.

Be on the look out to see all of this year’s winners and their Royal Court at all of the Christmas on River events, starting November the 29th with the lighting of the Love Light Tree.

Stokes crowned 2017 Young Miss COTR (with gallery)

10-10-17 — Demopolis, Ala. — Kylie Elizabeth Stokes (right) reacts as she realizes that she will be Young Miss Christmas on the River 2017 as Adalyn Broox Lindsey’s (left) name is called as first alternate.

Young Miss Christmas on the River 2017 saw 33 contestants compete for the title at the Demopolis Civic Center. They paraded in true pageantry form to show their best style, poise and beauty as the judges chose a top 15. These young ladies presented their best and included Millie Hill, Emery Wideman, Susanna Bell, Elliegh Reid Dossett, Mary Carlton Parten, Madisen Sewell, Maddie Grace Teel, Sha’Keithia Murphy, Kyle Stokes, Olivia Tripp, Anna Kate Morrison, Adalyn Lindsey, Ari Freeman, Ali Basinger, and Bailey Madison Bolden.

After the top 15 contestants walked a second time, the judges narrowed the competition down to a top 5, who were judged on their ability to speak in public and think on their feet by answering the question, “What do you look for in a friend?” These third through fifth grade thought very hard to come up with the best answer to win the judges over. After the judges reflected on their decision, the new Young Miss COTR and her Royal Court were decided.

Placing fourth alternate was Mary Carlton Parten wearing a beautiful white tulle gown with silver and gold sequins. Susanna Bell was awarded third alternate in an off the shoulder elegant princess gown with lots of sparkle. Wearing a fabulous white formal gown with a silver beaded bodice and white rosettes on the skirt was second alternate, Emery Wideman. Adalyn Broox Lindsey earned first alternate wearing a gorgeous white satin gown embellished with crystals.

Crowned Young Miss Christmas on the River was Kylie Stokes in a perfect satin Christmas red gown detailed with crystals. Kylie is the daughter of Wayne and Heather Stokes and attends U.S. Jones. She was extremely shocked and overwhelmed at winning the title. Ms. Stokes is excited and looks forward to riding and waving in the COTR Day parade. She wants everyone to know how much fun it was to compete in this year’s pageant and hopes that everyone will sign up for next year and have as much fun as she did.

Come out and support the last of the COTR pagaents, Little Miss COTR, tonight at the Civic Center at 6pm.

Gray crowned 2017 Miss Junior COTR (with gallery)

10-9-17 — Demopolis, Ala. — LaCher Sincere Gray was crowned Miss Junior Christmas on the River 2017 by Molly Katherine Harrison, who was Miss Junior Christmas on the River 2016.

Monday night saw 16 beautiful young ladies compete in the Miss Junior Christmas on the River at the Demopolis Civic Center. They all presented their beauty, poise and confidence in hopes of being named this year’s winner. The top 11 chosen were Caylee Madison Jones, Anna Katherine Sellers, Madelyn Baty Singleton, Meredith Gray Patrenos, Taylor Mills Quinney, Abbie Grace Cameron, Wesley Elizabeth Craft, Megan Lindsey Roe, LaCher Sincere Gray, Leah Beth Stewart, and Cassidy Claire Crawford.

After a second parade of contestants, the top 5 were chosen and took the stage to answer the question “What makes you you happy or laugh?” The judges then debated and took in consideration the contestants answers and ability to speak in public, along with their poise and beauty to name the new Miss Junior COTR and her royal court.

Fourth Alternate was Meredith Gray Patrenos wearing a white chiffon dress with lace and crystal detailing on the bodice. Cassidy Claire Crawford was awarded third Alternate donning an emerald evening gown with beading at the waistline. In a Christmas red ball gown, Caylee Madison Jones was chosen as second Alternate. Taylor Mills Quinney earned the first Alternate position wearing a golden hued gown with lots of shine and sparkle.

This year’s Miss Junior Christmas on the River is LaCher Sincere Gray. LaCher was wearing an elegant white off the shoulder ball gown encrusted in crystals. She is the daughter of Henry and LaTara Jones and is in the seventh grade at Demopolis Middle School. LaCher said she was “super shocked but very excited to be named Miss Junior COTR.” She said she’d like to encourage other young ladies to participate in the pageant but to always have an open mind when competing. Miss Gray is looking forward to riding in this year’s COTR parade of floats.

Be sure to come to the Demopolis Civic Center and support more young ladies as they compete in the remaining COTR pageants.
Young Miss COTR Tuesday October 10th at 7pm.
Little Miss COTR Wednesday October 11th at 6pm.

Mackey crowned 2017 Miss COTR (with gallery)

10-7-17 — Demopolis, Ala. — Sally Mackey is crowned 2017 Miss Christmas on the River by 2016 Miss Christmas on the River JaKeira Washington at the Demopolis Civic Center.

Miss Christmas on the River has been a time honored tradition for 46 years. Freshman through Senior class young ladies from Demopolis and the surrounding areas compete in hopes of representing Christmas on the River during all of the wonderful holiday festivities that year. Twelve young ladies competed for the title of Miss Christmas on the River 2017 tonight at the Demopolis Civic Center. They showed their personality, charm and intelligence in an interview with the judges prior to gliding across the stage to present their poise and beauty to win the coveted title.

After all of the scores had been tallied, the top five were called to the stage to answer a question to show their ability to speak in public and to think on their feet. The scores were then tallied again and a new Miss COTR and royal court were decided.

Wearing an elegant black off the shoulder gown embellished with rhinestones on the sleeves was 4th alternate, Sidney Alyn Atkins. Abigayle Marie Quinney was named 3rd alternate in a classic off the shoulder black evening dress. In a gorgeous Fuchsia one shouldered gown, SueEllen Marie Broussard was awarded 2nd alternate. 1st alternate was McKenzie Lane Walker wearing a beautiful black evening gown outlined in rhinestones.
Sally Katherine Mackey was crowned Miss Christmas on the River 2017 wearing a stunning Sherri Hill Ball Gown encrusted with multi-colored crystals. Sally was also honored with the title of Miss Congeniality which is chosen by the other contestants. She is the daughter of Bill and Lori Mackey and is a student at Demopolis High School.

Sally is no stranger to representing Christmas on the River. Growing up with the tradition of the Christmas on the River pageants she has represented the Little Miss and Miss Jr. Christmas on the River titles and was part of the Young Miss Christmas on the River Royal Court. “I was honestly shocked at being crowned but extremely honored to be awarded the title and will represent it to the best of my abilities,” Mackey said

The Tradition continues with the remaining three pageants starting Monday at the Demopolis Civic Center: Miss Junior COTR is Monday October 9th at 7pm, Young Miss COTR is Tuesday October 10th at 7pm and Little Miss COTR is Wednesday October 11th at 6pm.

COTR 2016 Day Activities (gallery)

2016 Christmas in the Canebrake (gallery)

Camilla Bett Smith honored as COTR Special Child

11-30-2016 -- Demopolis, Ala. -- Camilla Smith (center) blows bubbles with her parents, Kelley (left) and Brandon Smith, before she threw the breaker to light the Love Light Tree at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital on Wednesday night. This event kicks off the 2016 Christmas on the River events in Demopolis.

11-30-2016 — Demopolis, Ala. — Camilla Smith (center) blows bubbles with her parents, Kelley (left) and Brandon Smith, before she threw the breaker to light the Love Light Tree at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital on Wednesday night. This event kicks off the 2016 Christmas on the River events in Demopolis.

Christmas on the River 2016 kicked-off in Demopolis Wednesday as Camilla Bett Smith, daughter of Kelley and Brandon Smith, was honored as the COTR Special Child for 2016. Camilla is 11-years-old and attends US Jones Elementary School. She was born Aug. 14, 2005, and for the first six months of her life she met all developmental milestones as expected. However, at age six months she began to have clusters of seizure activity, sometimes up to 80 seizures daily, diagnosed as Infantile Spasms. As she aged, continued seizure activity progressed to the diagnosis of Intractable Epilepsy. Doctors at Children’s Hospital of Alabama used over 19 anti-epileptic drugs to control her seizures without success. At one point, she went over a year and a half with severe hyperactivity and essentially no sleep at all.

“She has been through a lot!” said her mother, Kelley.

At age 4, the first surgical procedure to control seizures was a Vagal Nerve Stimulator. The stimulator was implanted and remains in Camilla today, but unfortunately it did not control the seizure activity and was ultimately turned off. At age six, she underwent a surgical procedure called a Corpus Callosotomy which separated the right and left hemispheres of her brain. This procedure resulted in six weeks of no seizure activity. Unfortunately, seizure activity did return, but the procedure enabled physicians to determine in what part of the brain the activity was occurring and three areas were later surgically removed in the right hemisphere of her brain. With these three areas of the brain quieted, she was completely seizure-free for over four years.

Of late, nocturnal seizures have been identified by her neurologists, but she has been basically stable on the five medications that she takes daily. During the course of our visit, and before her brother Crosby (age 6), could act first, she sang the Happy Birthday Song while blowing out one of her mother’s decorative scented candle.

“This is a girl that was not expected to have any speech, nor be able to walk, or live, or learn. As you can see, she is able to count, form sentences, say the alphabet, and comprehends the world around her,” said Kelley.

There are estimated to be over 5.1 million people in the United States with seizures or seizure disorder.  When asked how their family has adapted to Camilla’s special needs Kelley simply said, “We decided to actively live and fit everything else right into our lives.”

The Smiths feel strength and support by extended family that lives nearby, Fairhaven Baptist Church family, and the Individual and Family Support Group through West Alabama Mental Health Center in Demopolis.

Camilla Bett Smith is a beautiful, enthusiastic, and joyful young girl. If you are lucky enough to see Camilla and her family around Demopolis celebrating Christmas on the River, or if you see her in the Children’s Parade, be sure to wave as she is the most Special Child of Christmas on the River this year.

COTR festivities resume tonight at 5:30 p.m. as the Public Square in downtown Demopolis is lit and the 2016 St. Nicholas is crowned.

For a full schedule of COTR events, click here.