Christmas on the River preparations going well

Woody Collins drives the old Demopolis Fire Engine in a recent Christmas on the River Children’s Day Parade.

Preparations for the 41st annual Christmas on the River are well underway as volunteers around the community have been participating in regularly scheduled work days.

“They are usually in the warehouse from 1-5 on Wednesdays and sometimes Fridays,” Demopolis Chamber of Commerce director Jenn Tate said of the small army of volunteers that make the city’s annual yuletide celebration a continued hit.

As is customary, this year’s festivities will be highlighted by the children’s parade during the day and night parade on the water. The day parade is being headed up by Diane Brooker while Buffy Etheridge oversees the night parade.

“Diane Brooker and her husband have kind of designed some new floats to put in the day parade. This year, I think (volunteers have) worked longer and harder,” Tate said. “Last year was so huge to me because it was the 40th anniversary. Now, it’s the 41st. You just hope you keep it going. This year, I think they started working even earlier on floats. It’s amazing just to see the talent people really have.”

In addition to Brooker and Etheridge, the event also has community members over the individual components ranging from the barbecue competition to the Miss Christmas on the River pageants. Tate also indicated the city is still seeking someone to spearhead the annual gala.

“You kind of need somebody to be over the whole entire thing and then have your people in place,” Tate said of the organizational format of the weeklong holiday celebration. “It’s a whole big bunch of people that help do it. This year, we’re kind of lucky in that the high school is having kind of a mentoring/volunteer hours kind of program.”

The grand marshals for this year’s event are NASCAR’s Alabama Gang, consisting of Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison and Red Farmer.

“Jerry Gaddy happens to have good connections with Bobby Allison,” Tate said. “I think Jerry Gaddy was really the main, instrumental person in getting that set up for us.”

The selection will mark the second time Donnie Allison has served as grand marshal over the festivities. He previously played the role of day parade grand marshal for the 30th annual Christmas on the River in 2001.

Tate also indicated that the chamber is still actively seeking both volunteers and contributions.

“We’re thankful for anybody’s help,” Tate said. “We appreciate any contribution. If you can’t send money, just get out there and help us for a few hours. I didn’t know and I had no understanding until I took this position just what all it takes.”